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Chester JE, Rowneki M, Van Doren W, Helmer DA. Progression of intervention-focused research for Gulf War illness. Military Medical Research. 2019 Oct 18; 6(1):31.
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Abstract: The Persian Gulf War of 1990 to 1991 involved the deployment of nearly 700,000 American troops to the Middle East. Deployment-related exposures to toxic substances such as pesticides, nerve agents, pyridostigmine bromide (PB), smoke from burning oil wells, and petrochemicals may have contributed to medical illness in as many as 250,000 of those American troops. The cluster of chronic symptoms, now referred to as Gulf War Illness (GWI), has been studied by many researchers over the past two decades. Although over $500 million has been spent on GWI research, to date, no cures or condition-specific treatments have been discovered, and the exact pathophysiology remains elusive.Using the 2007 National Institute of Health (NIH) Roadmap for Medical Research model as a reference framework, we reviewed studies of interventions involving GWI patients to assess the progress of treatment-related GWI research. All GWI clinical trial studies reviewed involved investigations of existing interventions that have shown efficacy in other diseases with analogous symptoms. After reviewing the published and ongoing registered clinical trials for cognitive-behavioral therapy, exercise therapy, acupuncture, coenzyme Q10, mifepristone, and carnosine in GWI patients, we identified only four treatments (cognitive-behavioral therapy, exercise therapy, CoQ10, and mifepristone) that have progressed beyond a phase II trial.We conclude that progress in the scientific study of therapies for GWI has not followed the NIH Roadmap for Medical Research model. Establishment of a standard case definition, prioritized GWI research funding for the characterization of the pathophysiology of the condition, and rapid replication and adaptation of early phase, single site clinical trials could substantially advance research progress and treatment discovery for this condition.

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