BU gets grant to study war sickness

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By Reubin Turner

Staff Writer

U.S. Department of Defense’s Office of Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs awarded Baylor two research grants to assist with research on Gulf War Illness.

The grants, which total nearly $1.6 million, bring the total amount Baylor has acquired for research on the illness to $2.3 million.

The illness, which affects an estimated one in four of the 700,000 military personnel who served in the Gulf War from 1990-1991, is a medical condition that seems symptom-specific to those soldiers.

Symptoms include chronic headache, widespread pain, memory and concentration difficulties and digestive abnormalities, according to an article published by Bio-Medicine.

Dr. Lea Steele, an epidemiologist at Baylor and the director of the Baylor Research Initiative on Complex Illness, said thousands of veterans are still suffering from the illness.

Steele, who is also a research professor at the university, said she aims to address multiple aspects of the syndrome.

These aspects include studying the biological processes causing veterans’ symptoms and the development of a nationwide network that would advance health research on the issue

“These grants will support our intensive effort to find answers,” Steele said.

The program, to be conducted in three separate projects, will aid in the development of treatment for the illness.

In the first stage, the research team will partner with Scott & White Healthcare to provide clinical assessments to soldiers who suffer from the illness.

These assessments will include taking an in-depth look at the brain and the immune system.

The second stage of the illness will be dedicated to developing blood tests, which will be used to better diagnose the illness.

Steele said that currently the only way to diagnose a veteran with the disease is to determine whether or not the veteran has the symptoms of the disease.

Steele said this test will provide a more objective approach in diagnosing the disease rather than assessing the condition solely on the symptoms.

The third and final stage of the research effort will include a national survey on the current health status of Gulf War veterans.

With this nationwide survey, Steele said she hopes to attain a national network for sufferers of this disease, connecting both veterans and scientists who may be doing research on the disease.

Steele said she hopes this research will lead to effective treatments for the illness.

Frank Raczkiewicz, assistant vice president for media communications, said Steele has worked tirelessly in obtaining these grants for the university, and that she will oversee the implementation of these programs as well.