Involvement of onchocerciasis volvulus in ME/CFS by John Brown

John believes that the evidence is that many (if not all of us) with ME, CFS and GWS are actually suffering from onchocerciasis, a treatable infection that is rampant in the Middle East. He has been busy, health permitting, presenting the epidemiological evidence to the CMO and other interested parties. I must admit I was intrigued and concerned to read about Fasciola liver flukes. Eating of unwashed salad vegetables imported from the Middle East and Mediterranean areas can spread them. I had heard that wild watercress grown in the UK could also be infected with flukes.

In 1997 John discovered he had onchocerciasis and not as he thought ME. Since then he's been on the look out for other misdiagnosed cases, which he feels are not hard to find.

Well, below is an extract from John's work. He intends to publish all the evidence on our web site in the near future, but anyone wishing to find out more you can give him a call on 020 72781571 otherwise we will keep you informed via kickback

DIAGNOSIS — ONCHOCERCIASIS — Presenting as chronic multisymptom Gulf related illness,
......................................................................ME/CFS, Gulf War syndrome

SYNOPSIS —Tropical disease clinics are failing to diagnose helminthiases in minimally infected travellers and expatriates. 1 have been very ill with onchocerciasis contracted while working as a site architect in Saudi Arabia between 1983 and 1986. This is the infection responsible for Gulf War syndrome. It is quite possible that 1 also contracted other, concomitant helminthiases while working in the Middle and Far East between 1980 and 1990. My debilitating illness has been highly symptomatic and I have not received any treatment since the retirement of Dr Adrian Naftalin (GP) in April 2000.

ONCHOCERCIASIS in SAUDI ARABIA - In 1980, heavily infected cases of onchocerciasis presenting as river blindness were reported by Chumbley from the military hospital on the Khamis Mushayt airbase.1 This was where the Stealth bombers were based during the gulf War.2 Chumbley was alerted to the possibility of onchocerciasis in the area by a zoologist who had observed the presence of the blackfly vectors. The zoologist then published his paper in a volume of obscure Swiss tomes on the flora and fauna of Saudi Arabia. Consequently, Chumbley's report eluded inclusion in the Index Medicus, thereby skipping the attention of Gulf War syndrome investigators. Nevertheless, I managed to find it so — ?

Additional heavily infected cases presenting as sowda were reported from Riyadh in 19913. It must be assumed that, with the exception of new born babies and expatriates straight off the plane, virtually everyone at Khamis Mushayt and Riyadh are, at least to some small extent, infected. Yet not a single British5 or American6 veteran, nor myself, have managed to get the appropriate screens performed, hence the regrettable involvement of lawyers.

Bearing in mind that American investigators screened USAF personnel it is remarkable that onchocerciasis was overlooked in the light of Chumbley's paper. Thousands of expatriates in Arabia must have contracted onchocerciasis over the years, and yet not a single case has ever been reported in the medical literature — a discrepancy First noticed nearly 40 years ago7 What has become of the missing Arabian expatriate cases? I account for only one.

It may also be significant that a six week course of doxycycline; the veterans' treatment of choice, interrupts embryogenesis and degenerates the adult worms.8


1. Chumbley LC. (1980). Onchocerciasis in Saudi Arabia. pages 412 - 4 I8 in Fauna of Saudi Arabia vol 2. Edited by Wittmer W, and Buttiker W. Pro Entomologia, c/o Natural History Museum, Basel, Switzerland: and Ciba-Geigy Ltd, Basel, Switzerland.
Note: This paper eluded inclusion in the Index Medicus. The MoD were unaware of it until I sent them a copy.
2. Sir Peter de la Billiere (1992). Chapter 9 In, Storm Command : A personal account of the Gulf War. London: Harper Collins
3. Siddiqui MA, and Al-Khawajah MM, (1991). The Black Disease of Arabia, Sowda- onchocerciasis: New Findings. International Journal of Dermatology 30(2): 130— 133
4. Freedman DO, Unnasch TR, Merriweather A, and Awadzi K, (1994), Truly infection- free persons are rare in areas hyperendemic for African onchocerciasis. Journal of Infectious Diseases 170: 1054 —1055
5. Coker WJ, Bhatt BM, Blatchley NF, and Graham JT. (1999). Clinical findings for the first 1000 Gulf War veterans in the Ministry of Defence's medical assessment programme. BMJ 318(7179): 290 — 294
6. Fukuda K, Nisenbaum R, Stewart G. et al (1998). Chronic .Multisymptom illncss Affecting Air Force Veterans of the Gulf War JAMA280(1): 981—988
7. Gasparini G, (1964). Problems of onchocerciasis in new suspected areas sowda and onchocerciasis (Report for the First International Congress of Tropical Dermatology. Naples, Italy. June ]964.) Arch ltal Sci Med Trop Parassit 45: 243—260
8. Hoerauf A, Vulkmann L. Hamelmann C, el al (2000), Endosymbiotic bacteria in worms as targets for a novel chemotherapy in filariasis. The Lancet 355: 1242—1243