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Gulf War Mystery and HIV

By Paul M. Rodriguez

As officials repeatedly have lied about the relationship of squalene to gulf-war illness, Insight has pursued the truth, uncovering HIV tests for an AIDS vaccine using the adjuvant.

       The mystery of why antibodies to a polymer compound called squalene show up in sick Persian Gulf War veterans has taken yet another strange twist. The Pentagon -- though continuing to deny it used such an experimental medicine during the war -- now admits to using it in human experimental programs involving an anti-HIV vaccination.
. . . . Dale Vesser, a retired Army general, was the first Pentagon spokesman to admit in response to Insight articles that the Department of Defense had squalene and used it in recent experimental medical tests on about 50 soldiers to test an antimalaria vaccination. At the time, mid-August, Vesser claimed that was the only Pentagon usage of squalene.
. . . . Because such adjuvants can result in serious unintended consequences for the immune system, it takes years of laboratory testing and reviews before they can be moved into stages of experimental human testing.
. . . . The revelation by the Pentagon that it is conducting human experiments with squalene involving an anti-HIV vaccination program -- but only on civilians, it says -- comes months after Insight first reported the strange discovery of squalene antibodies in the blood of sick gulf-war vets. The only possible medical cause for squalene antibodies being in the bloodstream, according to scientists in and out of government who commented for Insight, is inoculation or immunization.
. . . . The human body contains minute amounts of squalene, a substance thought to be involved in the production of cholesterol and in "oils" that keep skin soft. As with virtually all naturally occurring substances in the human body, it is theoretically possible for the body to create antibodies that attack even internally produced substances. However, there are no such cases in conventional medical texts, according to immunologists.
. . . . That's why the discovery of squalene antibodies in preliminary tests on sick gulf vets -- tests that are nearing completion and scheduled for publication -- is so unusual and potentially ominous. That's why Insight began asking the Pentagon and other government agencies if they gave any squalene-based medicine to soldiers during the gulf war. What inspired the original Insight expose was the strange coincidence of sick soldiers who received inoculations and immunization shots and were deployed overseas as well as sick soldiers called up for duty who were given the shots but never left the U.S.
. . . . When the Pentagon and Veterans Affairs denied using or even having squalene, the mystery of that preliminary discovery of those antibodies took on the feel of a good detective story. How could something show up in the blood of sick soldiers -- and even contractors who received shots -- when the government said it never administered such a drug? The search for reasons was delayed for many weeks by government denials even as more sophisticated tests began to confirm preliminary results.
. . . . Insight at first was told squalene was not in the government's arsenal of drugs -- then discovered it had been used in experimental medical trials at the National Institutes of Health involving cutting-edge herpes vaccines. Suddenly the story line was that, yes, it's used there -- but nowhere else. Insight discovered that it was used at the Army's Walter Reed Medical Research Center -- then the story line was that, yes, it's used there -- but only recently and only for an experimental malaria-vaccination program. When Insight discovered it has been used at Walter Reed for HIV research, the cover story moved to yes -- but only in laboratory work involving animals.
. . . . Insight next discovered that Walter Reed actually manufactures a pharmaceutical-grade version of squalene. Now the magazine has been told that is done for private firms working with the government to develop experimental programs involving vaccinations for herpes, malaria -- and, separately, for HIV research projects involving possible new AIDS drugs.
. . . . Finally we learn that the Pentagon -- by and through Walter Reed, among others -- has been engaged in human testing programs involving an anti-HIV vaccine using squalene as the adjuvant in concert with private firms through a cooperative program funded by the Pentagon. In fact, according to high-level military and intelligence sources, the Pentagon has been working for years to find an anti-HIV vaccine, employed military doctors to work in such programs and is working with other countries, including Thailand, on clinical anti-HIV trials not authorized in the U.S. for humans.
. . . . Many of those same military doctors working in the anti-HIV vaccine programs have jumped ship to work for private foundations and companies that perform contract work for and on behalf of the Pentagon at U.S. military facilities following congressional cuts in military appropriations for direct AIDS research.
. . . . As the search continues for the reason antibodies to squalene (natural or man-made) are showing up in sick gulf-war vets, these questions are emerging: Did the Pentagon do something it hasn't yet admitted? Why doesn't the Pentagon assist in finding out how something that isn't supposed to be in sick soldiers got there? What was mixed with a possible squalene adjuvant that might be causing or contributing to the illness?
. . . . Congressional investigators from veterans, armed services, intelligence and government oversight committees are beginning to ask these questions -- questions that no one who knows wants to answer. In public.


Copyright 1997 News World Communications, Inc.
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