WASHINGTON — Are veterans of the 1990-1991 Gulf War at increased risk to develop neurologic disease?
That is what a study group, led by researchers from the VA’s multiple sclerosis (MS) Center for Excellence, sought to determine. Their poster presentation, presented at the 2013 Americas Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis (ACTRIMS) meeting in Orlando, noted that the association of neurologic disease and Gulf War service may be related to a variety of potentially hazardous environmental exposures that were present in the war theater.1
To evaluate the risk of developing MS in deployed vs. nondeployed veterans of the First Gulf War (GW1), researchers reviewed medical records and data from the DoD and VA for cases of MS in veterans who served in the military between 1990, the start of the Gulf War (GW) era and 2007 and who were service-connected by the VA.
Validated MS cases in veterans who had served in GW1 (1990-1991) were matched to the GW1 database of all active duty troops from the DoD according to deployment status to the war zone.
Of the 696,118 troops deployed in GW1, 387 incident MS cases were found. At the same time, 1,457 incident MS cases were identified in about 1.8 million nondeployed personnel.
According to the study, the relative risk (RR) for MS among those deployed compared with those nondeployed was 0.68 (CI: 0.61-0.76) with 0.72 (CI: 0.63-0.81) in men and 0.92 (CI: 0.73-1.15) in women.
Results indicated that deployment was nonsignificant or protective as an MS risk factor across major racial groups: whites RR 0.62 (CI: 0.54-0.71), blacks RR 0.83 (CI: 0.68-1.02) and other races RR 1.65 (95% CI: 0.70-3.91). That also was the case across all age groups and across each branch of service: Army RR 0.80 (CI: 0.68-0.94), Navy RR 0.57 (CI: 0.45-0.74), Marines RR 0.99 (CI: 0.67-1.47) and Air Force RR 0.66 (CI: 0.50-0.87).
“Military deployment to the Theater of Operations in the First Gulf War was not a risk factor for developing MS,” the authors conclude. “Further study of environmental factors that influence recent morbidity trends in MS are needed.”
1 Wallin MT, Mahan C, Maloni H, Culpepper WH, Coffman P, Kurtzke J. Saturday, P24 Military Deployment and Risk For Multiple Sclerosis In The First Gulf War. Poster presented at ACTRIMS meeting, June 1, 2013, Orlando, FL.