The following item is exciting news and important progress for those
who have suffered the ill-effects of chemicals without validation from the
medical community. This research will hopefully help ensure more accurate
diagnosis of adverse events associated with the use of certain pesticides.
Nerve poison leaves telltale evidence
Alex Kirby, BBC News
Tuesday April 18, 2000
A U.S. team has found changes in the blood of a child with organophosphate (OP)
poisoning, which could make it easier for other patients to prove exposure to
The changes, a series of antibodies, provide physical evidence of the
neurological damage caused by the poison.
This is thought to be the first physical evidence discovered of the
neurological damage many believe is caused by OP exposure and related
conditions, like Gulf War Syndrome.
The researchers say the antibodies' discovery "may provide a useful
marker for diagnosis of chemically-induced neurological disorders, and may help
in the development of appropriate treatment".
The research team, whose work is reported in the journal Environmental
Epidemiology and Toxicology, was led by Professor Mohamed Abou-Donia, of Duke
University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina.
Professor Abou-Donia told BBC News Online: "This is a potentially very
significant discovery. Until now, doctors have told people suffering from similar conditions
that their symptoms were all in their heads. We've shown that a bio-marker exists, and it could help a range of
patients to persuade their doctors of the reality of what they're
The patient he and his team examined was a five-year-old boy who had been
exposed to tar and to an OP insecticide, chlorpyrifos, when he was a year old.
The tar had been shallowly buried in earth where the boy played, and the
insecticide had been used several times inside his home.
By the time he was 14 months old, two months after his exposure, his family
thought he was unsteady on his feet, and his speech, which had been normal, was
He was also irritable. At 17 months he was unable to walk without falling. By
26 months, however, there was some improvement in his speech, and his
irritability had lessened. His neurological problems were judged to be consistent with OP ester-induced
delayed neurotoxicity (OPIDN).
Five years after his exposure, when he was seven years old, the boy's
intellect was defined as lower than his family's, and he was placed in a special
school because of "a mild degree of mental retardation".
The researchers tested his blood for the presence of antibodies against three
proteins characteristic of neurodegenerative disorders.
They used blood samples from the boy's 6- and 9-year-old brothers, his
32-year-old father and 34-year-old mother as controls. Antibodies against
two of the proteins were found in the boy's blood, and in that of several of the
controls. No antibodies against the third were found in any of the samples.
The researchers say: "In healthy individuals, the presence of
autoantibodies against [these] proteins is age-dependent: they increase with
age. In the present study, more of the antibodies were detected in the mother's
serum than in any of the other controls."
But it was the boy himself who showed by far the highest levels.
Elizabeth Sigmund, of the OP Information Network, told BBC News Online:
"This is a wonderful breakthrough. We have 800 people on our database, mainly sheep farmers who have been
exposed to OPs while dipping their animals. This news is vitally important for them, and for veterans from the
Gulf. They're chronically ill, and for years they've been struggling to prove
the cause of their condition to their doctors. Now it looks as though they'll be able to do that."