Veterans of the 1990-91 Persian Gulf War who are victims of Gulf War illness show a drop in phosphocreatine or PCr, a phosphorus-containing compound in cells, in muscle cells during exercise. These compounds are required to provide cell energy. In case of mitochondrial dysfunction, PCr recovery slows down.
Principal investigator Beatrice A. Golomb MD, PhD, professor of medicine, said dysfuncion in mitochondrial shows various symptoms of Gulf War illness.
He said, "The classic presentation for mitochondrial illness involves multiple symptoms spanning many domains, similar to what we see in Gulf War illness. These classically include fatigue, cognitive and other brain-related challenges, muscle problems and exercise intolerance, with neurological and gastrointestinal problems also common."
Earlier it was thought that stress was responsible for the illness, but now that has been ruled out. According to Golomb, Gulf veterans were extensively exposed to acetylcholinesterase inhibitors, a chemical present in organophosphate and carbamate pesticides, nerve gas and nerve gas pre-treatment pills administered to troops.
And these chemicals are known to introduce toxicity in mitochondria and their direct relationship has been found with Gulf War illness.