Using plasma autoantibodies of Central Nervous System proteins to distinguish veterans with Gulf War Illness from healthy and symptomatic controls, by Mohamed B Abou-Donia, Elizabeth S Lapadula, Maxine H Krengel, Emily Quinn, Jessica LeClair, Joseph Massaro, Lisa A Conboy, Efi Kokkotou, Maria Abreu, Nancy G Klimas, Daniel D Nguyen and Kimberly Sullivan in Brain Sci. 2020, 10(9), 610; []  5 September 2020


Research abstract:

For the past 30 years, there has been a lack of objective tools for diagnosing Gulf War Illness (GWI), which is largely characterized by central nervous system (CNS) symptoms emerging from 1991 Gulf War (GW) veterans. In a recent preliminary study, we reported the presence of autoantibodies against CNS proteins in the blood of veterans with GWI, suggesting a potential objective biomarker for the disorder.

Now, we report the results of a larger, confirmatory study of these objective biomarkers in 171 veterans with GWI compared to 60 healthy GW veteran controls and 85 symptomatic civilian controls (n = 50 myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) and n = 35 irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)).

Specifically, we compared plasma markers of CNS autoantibodies for diagnostic characteristics of the four groups (GWI, GW controls, ME/CFS, IBS). For veterans with GWI, the results showed statistically increased levels of nine of the ten autoantibodies against neuronal “tubulin, neurofilament protein (NFP), Microtubule Associated Protein-2 (MAP-2), Microtubule Associated Protein-Tau (Tau), alpha synuclein (α-syn), calcium calmodulin kinase II (CaMKII)” and glial proteins “Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein (GFAP), Myelin Associated Glycoprotein (MAG), Myelin Basic Protein (MBP), S100B” compared to healthy GW controls as well as civilians with ME/CFS and IBS.

Next, we summed all of the means of the CNS autoantibodies for each group into a new index score called the Neurodegeneration Index (NDI). The NDI was calculated for each tested group and showed veterans with GWI had statistically significantly higher NDI values than all three control groups. The present study confirmed the utility of the use of plasma autoantibodies for CNS proteins to distinguish among veterans with GWI and other healthy and symptomatic control groups.

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