Gulf War Syndrome Not Bacterial

A year on powerful antibiotics did nothing to relieve the chronic health problems reported by Gulf War veterans, demolishing the theory that Gulf War syndrome is caused by a bacterial infection, researchers say.

The bacterial-infection theory "is off the table at this point," said Joseph F. Collins, a Veterans Affairs Maryland Healthcare System researcher.

The study was done by the Department of Veterans Affairs and was published in today's Annals of Internal Medicine.

The VA researchers studied 491 Gulf War veterans who complained of symptoms and who were found to have a bacterium called mycoplasma in their blood that was suspected to be the culprit. The veterans were randomly assigned to take either the broad-spectrum antibiotic doxycycline or a placebo daily for a year.

The antibiotics at best did nothing, and at worst may have caused harm, the researchers concluded.

Success Halts Trial of Heart Drug

Massachusetts-based NitroMed Inc. said yesterday that it stopped a clinical trial of its drug to prevent heart failure in African Americans after the benefits were found to be so substantial that it would have been unethical not to give the drug to those in the control group.

The move came after a committee that monitors safety in clinical trials recommended that the trial, of more than 1,000 patients, be stopped.

The drug, BiDil, is a pill that enhances the benefit of nitric oxide. Although the data reviewed by the committee were preliminary, they showed a statistically significant survival benefit and an improved quality of life.

Gene Defect May Clarify SIDS Cases

A faulty gene may be responsible for some cases of sudden infant death syndrome, or crib death, U.S. researchers said.

Tests on Amish families from Pennsylvania turned up a new disorder that causes sudden death and sometimes malformation of the genitals, the researchers report in this week's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The finding could help explain some of the inexplicable, unexpected deaths of 3,000 infants a year in the United States. The researchers have named their newly found disorder sudden infant death and dysgenesis of the testes syndrome, or SIDDT.

Flying Is Safe for Many Heart Patients

Flying is not as risky for heart patients as doctors once thought, researchers say.

"The important take-home message is that for people with stable coronary disease, all the data points to air travel being safe," said Stephen Possick, a Yale University cardiologist and an author of a paper in today's Annals of Internal Medicine.

The researchers reviewed dozens of recent studies of people with different kinds of cardiovascular disease to reach their conclusion.

For those whose heart disease was under control and who had no post-surgery troubles or major bouts with chest pain, or other troubling symptoms, the risks of air travel are low, Possick said.

-- From News Services