Feature Article


Issue Date of 1-21-98

The Wanderer

 Gulf War Illness Probe To Advance With New Study


  Tom Clancy's latest novel Rainbow Six rivets readers with a fictional account of environmentalist elites who decide that the only way they can save the world is to radically eliminate over 95% of the human population. Some of the world's leading scientists develop a strain of viruses, which they call Shiva after the Indian goddess of death, and devise an ingenious method to infect the world's population.

  Part of Clancy's plot involves the development of two antibodies to fight the new virus, one of which will be for the world's elite, to inoculate them; the other for the sick, to make them sicker.

  But there's a more riveting reallife scenario unfolding in the United States  and around the world  that puts Clancy's fictional thriller into the realm of the credible: the efforts of a small group of reputable scientists, sick U.S. veterans, and a handful of investigative journalists to unlock the secrets of Gulf War Illness (GWI), sometimes referred to as Gulf War Syndrome, which has afflicted between 100,000 and 200,000 military personnel who served in President George Bush's Desert Storm and their families, and which is responsible for  perhaps  15,000 deaths.

  The number of military personnel who have died of the mysterious illness remains a classified secret, one of GWI's top researchers, Dr. Garth Nicolson of the Institute for Molecular Medicine, told The Wanderer.

  For nearly ten years, since his daughter Sharron returned from the gulf where she served with the 101st Airborne, Nicolson and his wife, Nancy, a molecular biophysicist, have waged a lonely, frustrating, and often dangerous campaign to discover the causes of GWI while working on a treatment.

  Their first big break came last week (Jan. 12th) when they were notified by the U.S. Army that their research had been validated and their Institute for Molecular Medicine would be one of three centers, with the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology and the University of Texas at San Antonio, involved in a $12 million Veterans' Administrationfunded project to develop a treatment for the debilitating and often fatal illness, an infection known technically as mycoplasma fermentans.

  Dr. Nicolson explains that slightly under onehalf of the Gulf War veterans he has tested have shown signs of infection by mycoplasma fermentans.

  For the husbandwife team of researchers, the army's notice came as a tremendous vindication after years of repeated attempts by government agencies to ruin their careers, their credibility, and their research.

  As both Nancy and Garth Nicolson wrote in the October, 1996 issue of Criminal Politics, since he began researching the causes of GWI, he has lived through a governmentsponsored "nightmare."

  "We were attacked by highlevel military physicians, ostracized by certain colleagues who spread rumors about our sanity, forced out of academic institutions by a concerted effort that involved nonstop administrative harassment, mail and courier theft, wiretaps, credit card fraud, breaking a tenure contract, computer and documents theft, attempts to block our scientific and medical presentations, sabotage our clinical samples, and undermine our employees."

  Their ordeal over the past eight years  since 1991  has convinced them that certain sections of the U.S. government, working with what might be called the "eugenics elite" at the country's top research labs in the fields of biochemistry and genetic engineering, are testing new designer biologic agents on the American public, starting with prisoners and military personnel.

Who They Are

  The Doctors Garth and Nancy Nicolson are not your ordinary conspiracy theory "nuts."

  Garth Nicolson  before setting up the Institute for Molecular Medicine, a 501c3 corporation, in Huntington Beach, Calif.  was the David Bruton, Jr., Chair in Cancer Research and professor at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, and professor of internal medicine and professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at the University of Texas Medical School at Houston.

  He was also adjunct professor of comparative medicine at Texas A&M University. Among the most cited scientists in the world, having published over 480 medical and scientific papers, edited 13 books, served on the editorial boards of 12 medical and scientific journals, and currently serving as editor of two (Clinical & Experimental Metastasis and the Journal of Cellular Biochemistry), he has been the recipient of numerous research grants from the U.S. Army, the National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, the American Cancer Society, and the National Foundation for Cancer Research. In 1998, he received the Stephen Paget Award from the Cancer Metastasis Research Society and the Albert Schweitzer Award in Lisbon.

  Nancy Nicolson, a molecular biophysicist, was on the faculty at Baylor College of Medicine's Department of Immunology and Microbiology.

  Both scientists have been nominated for a Nobel Prize for their groundbreaking work in nucleoprotein gene tracking.

  In 1987, Nancy Nicolson believes, she was deliberately infected with mycoplasma incognitus because she refused to participate in research on biological weapons and germ warfare, and had, in fact, publicly spoken in opposition to such research programs  which are, in fact, banned by international treaties of which the U.S. is a signatory.

  She became deathly ill, becoming partly paralyzed; her thyroid was affected and she contracted meningitis. But during this illness, she found the antibiotic Doxycycline helped her regain health.

  In 1991, six months after the Nicolson's daughter returned from the gulf, Sharron came down with an illness remarkably similar to what Nancy had just recovered from: chronic fatigue, aching joints, diarrhea, vomiting, and fevers. The symptoms seemed similar to mycoplasma infection, and so the Nicolsons recommended treating her with Doxycycline.

  Sharron then began contacting her veteran friends, who were reporting similar problems, and of the 73 who tried the treatment, 55 reported an improvement in health.

  Now the plot thickens.

  That same year, Garth Nicolson began receiving reports of a "mystery illness" spreading among the employees of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice in Huntsville. Using gene tracking, the Nicolsons discovered these prison employees tested positive for mycoplasma fermentans infection.

  Prisoners in Huntsville, Palestine, and Victoria, Texas, had been given experimental flu vaccines purportedly developed by Tanox Biosystems on Stella Link in Houston, a company with close ties to Baylor, and the testing was part of a U.S. Armysponsored program run by biotechnology firms.

  The inmates at Huntsville then began spreading their disease to the prison guards, who passed it on to family members and others in the general population, who then started coming down with symptoms similar to those of such dread diseases as Lou Gehrig's Disease, MS, and Guillian Barre Syndrome.

  As Garth Nicolson reported his discoveries, he encountered increasing hostility from his peers, including Dr. Charles LeMaistre, a friend of George Bush and the past president of the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center; Dr. George Young, chief of the VA in Houston; and Dr. Robert M. Couch, head of the Baylor Influenza Program, because his findings implied illegal testing.

  Among Tanox's investors are George Bush and his former Secretary of State and fellow Texan James Baker III.

  As opposition rose, so did their understanding of M.D. Anderson's deep involvement in biological weapons research and testing since the late 1970s, and that M.D. Anderson was specifically engaged in research on mycoplasma fermentans as a biological weapon.

  Garth Nicolson resigned under pressure from M.D. Anderson in August, 1996, and was ordered to remove all his research equipment and materials from M.D. Anderson, where he had served as senior tenured professor and department chairman for 16 years.

  "The administration was trying to restrict our activities in the area of GWI and I resigned because of my stand on academic freedom and my right to pursue that particular line of investigation. I had unanimous internal clinical review board approval for the research," he told The Wanderer, "but I suspect that thenMajor General Ronald Blanck, currently surgeon general of the army, was pressuring the M.D. Anderson administration to stop our research."

Spreading The Disease

  In dozens of research reports for professional medical journals, and in four separate, sworn testimonies before congressional committees, the Doctors Nicolson state their belief that Gulf War Illness was caused both by the vaccines soldiers sent to the gulf received and by airborne chemicals released when U.S. troops destroyed tons of Saddam Hussein's chemical weapons.

  Their testimony is that soldiers were exposed to five possible sources of exposure: vaccines, some of which were questionable and were contaminated by microorganisms; blowback from destroyed biological and chemical weapons; factories and bunkers which stored the agents; approximately 60 Italianmade biological weapons sprayers that were fully deployed in southern Iraq and Kuwait; as well as airburst SCUD missiles equipped for delivery of chemical and biological weapons.

  Prior to deployment, the army administered vaccines, ostensibly, against weaponsborn anthrax, to 150,000 soldiers, often eight or nine shots at a time. Eightyfive percent of soldiers were told by their commanders that they could not refuse the vaccines, under threat of courtmartial, and 43% experienced immediate side effects.

  Together, the vaccines and Saddam's chemical weapons produced a toxic cocktail producing GWI, the symptoms of which include: aching joints, chronic fatigue, memory loss, night sweats, headaches, skin rashes, depression, muscle spasms, dizziness, nausea, vision problems, sex problems, urination problems, hair loss, bleeding gums, vision problems, and eye pain.

  Perhaps the most frightening facet of GWI is that a large fraction of it is a communicable disease  caused by the biological weapons  which Gulf War vets have passed on to their wives, their children, including those in utero, and even to pets.

  In his congressional testimony, Dr. Garth Nicolson stated that the Gulf War was the first time in history that vaccine records on the troops were classified  and remain classified to this day. The Department of Defense has admitted, however, that over 400,000 records have disappeared.

  Former Air Force Captain Joyce Riley, a Gulf War vet and another major figure working to expose the causes of GWI, has concluded that medical records of approximately 70% of all Gulf War vets are listed as "missing."

  Another bizarre twist to this tale is that the army's medical records from the Gulf War were in storage at the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City when it was bombed.

  What has alarmed the Nicolsons, and other researchers, is that mycoplasmal infections are often relatively benign, but preliminary investigations of some mycoplasma found in some Gulf War veterans contains the HIV1 envelope gene, a component of the AIDS virus which renders the mycoplasma invasive, enabling it to spread throughout the body, alter DNA, and cause birth defects.

  Another frightful scenario is the possibility that some vets, who have been infected with the mycoplasma disease but as yet show no symptoms, may be donating blood, and thereby infecting the larger population.

  This is the view of Dr. Patricia Axelrod, one of the first to speak out about Gulf War Illness. In a Dec. 12th, 1996 Montel interview, she said: "We are dealing with bacterial warfare agents. We are dealing with chemical warfare agents. We are dealing with radiation poisoning. . . . The Department of Defense is covering this up."

  Already, as Life magazine reported in 1995, an abnormally high percentage of children with birth defects have been born to Gulf War vets.

More Mysteries

  On Feb. 9th, 1994, former Michigan Sen. Don Riegle, Jr., took to the floor of the U.S. Senate and reported:

  "Records available from the supplier for the period from 1985 until the present show that during this period, pathogenicbiologic agents  meaning poisonous and other materials  were exported to Iraq pursuant to application and licensing by the U.S. Department of Commerce.

  "Records prior to 1985 were not available, according to the supplier. These exported materials were not attenuated or weakened and were capable of reproduction. Thus, from at least 1985 through 1989, the United States government approved the sale of quantities of potentially lethal biological agents that could have been cultured or grown in large quantities in an Iraqi biological warfare program. . . .

  "I find it especially troubling that, according to the supplier's records, these materials were requested by and sent to Iraqi government agencies, including the Iraqi Atomic Energy Commission, the Iraq Ministry of Higher Education, the State Company for Drug Industries, and the Ministry of Trade. While there may be legitimate needs for pathogens in medical research, closer scrutiny should be exercised."

  Among the chemicals sent to Iraq Riegle cited were Bacillus Anthacis, Clostridium Botulinum, Histoplasma Capsulatum, and Brucella Melitensis.

  "If you look at what the Iraqis were ordering," said Dr. Nicolson, "they were ordering far more than what they would need for legitimate testing purposes as controls for diagnostic testing."

  Among the companies granted export licenses to ship these toxic agents abroad was the American Type Culture Collection of Rockville, Md., and the federal government's own Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta was responsible for shipping some of the materials, according to Riegle's investigation.

Strange Twists

  One of the strangest facts among the millions uncovered by investigators such as the Nicolsons and Captain Riley is that Nobel laureate Joshua Lederberg of Rockefeller University is on American Type Culture Collection's board of directors.

  Lederberg is not only one of the world's leading experts on cuttingedge molecular biology and genetics, but was also named to lead the presidential commission to investigate the Gulf War disease by President Clinton.

  Lederberg, a member of the Department of Defense Science Board and an advocate of biological warfare, has helped steer Defense funds to organizations working on biological warfare.

  As chairman of the government's investigators into GWI, Lederberg claimed that his researchers could not discover any cause for Gulf War Illness.

  Another Nobel laureate who figures in this drama is Dr. James Watson, who won a Nobel in 1962 for physiology and medicine with two British scientists, Francis Crick and Maurice Wilson, for his role in unraveling the molecular structure of DNA.

  In 1968, Watson became director of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory of Quantitative Biology in New York, where he is a leading researcher in the Human Genome Project.

  Watson, with other doctors, was involved in the development of the flu vaccine which was used on the inmates in Texas prisons.

  Meanwhile, as the Clinton administration slowly changes its official position that Gulf War Illness is a myth, the Department of Defense acknowledges its past shortcomings in handling complaints related to GWI and research on its causes; the Veterans Administration has reported that the activeduty tumor rate in the U.S. military has increased more than 600% since 1990; there is a health crisis in the gulf states, with an estimated 15%20% of populations "sick" at any given time; birth defects and infant deaths are soaring.

  In a September, 1996 appearance at Washington University in St. Louis, Nobel laureate Edward O. Wilson, an environmental scientist, spoke on the subject of downsizing the earth's population.

  The mildmannered Harvard professor of entomology, reported The St. Louis PostDispatch (Sept. 12th, 1996), explained how the earth's population had to be brought down to "'the hundreds of millions' for a true ecological balance. . . .

  "A single global policy on population is unfeasible, he said. But efforts are under way in this and other populous nations to achieve zero population growth and even depopulation, he said."

  The March/April, 1996 edition of Foreign Affairs published an article for its elite readership, "Why We Need a Smaller U.S. Population and How We Can Achieve It."

  The stuff of fiction? Not anymore.

  "This story gets more and more tangled the deeper you dig," Dr. Nicolson told The Wanderer.

  Indeed it does, especially as GWI is exploding in the civilian population.

+    +    +

  For Gulf War vets, there is some good news, Dr. Nicolson said. "The Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs are now allowing physicians to treat microplasma infections in Gulf War Illness patients with antibiotics, according to our published protocols.

  "This was not allowed just a few months ago."


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