The medical mystery on Guam

January 26, 1993|By Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Veterans may soon help unravel a medical mystery that evolved a half-century ago and half a world away.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs wants to know whether any soldiers or sailors developed neurological diseases after serving on Guam during the World War II era.

If so, that may help explain a high incidence of Parkinson's disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, known as Lou Gehrig's disease, among the Chamarro natives of the island.

Such a finding also could help American military personnel obtain medical care if the diseases are found to be service-related.

"One of the most plausible theories links a high incidence of the diseases to the cycad palm, which grows abundantly on the island," said Dr. John Peacock, chief of neurology at the VA's Ioannis A. Lougaris Medical Center in Reno, Nev., where the epidemiological study is based.

For information about the Guam study, write to Susan F. Schweitzer, neurological clinical nurse specialist, APDA Information and Referral Center, 1000 Locust St., Reno, Nev. 89520, or call (702) 328-1766.

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