Being in the Army Can be Bad for your Health

This post contains potentially sensitive reading about mortality.

Harris et al. Mortality from multiple sclerosis in British military personnel.Occup Med 2017;67:448-452.

While analyzing trends in occupational mortality in England and Wales, we noticed an unexpectedly elevated proportion of deaths from multiple sclerosis (MS) among men in the armed forces.

In this study they looked at the cause of death in nearly 4 million men in England and Wales between 1979-2010 and there was an overabundance of deaths from MS in the armed services, but not in other occupations. However, there is no published army data to support this. Is this chance, or is there a sub-clinical reason?

In school tests in Argentina, people who were later to get MS could be more easily spotted, so there may be subtle effects. As we know being in the Army carries a health warning as it is dangerous:-).

What happened in the US?

Williams et al. Multiple sclerosis among service members of the active and reserve components of the U.S. Armed Forces and among other beneficiaries of the Military Health System, 2007-2016. MSMR. 2017;24(8):2-11.

During 2007-2016, a total of 2,031 service personnel were diagnosed with MS. MS was more common in women but it was high in black service members, dispelling the idea that MS is a “White Disease”. The age of diagnosis was 32 years among active service personnel men/women, 37 years among reserve members.

It does not mention death in service.

Who wants to read this boring stuff? What we should be posting on is this and its implications.
Green et al. Clemastine fumarate as a remyelinating therapy for multiple sclerosis (ReBUILD): a randomised, controlled, double-blind, crossover trial.

“This is the first randomised controlled trial to document the efficacy of a remyelinating drug for the treatment of chronic demyelinating injury in multiple sclerosis. Our findings suggest that myelin repair can be achieved even following prolonged damage”.

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  • Good news is that we invited Ari Green, the lead investigator on the clemastine trial, do a guest post. He has accepted so we should have his post live in the next few days.

  • I was in the army and have MS. We all got vaccinated with crap vaccines, which were tested on us, e.g. the anthrax vaccine and ended up with PTSD and MS…

  • Very interesting study, thursday i talk to my neuro (have done a spinal tap)
    And give him the study he was very intrigued to know this efects from
    an antihistamine
    Frist question is why only 150 days duration trial?
    They said that mri machine are not able to detect mielin so they are assuming that the increase velocity from the nerve condution study must come from the myelin formation (remyelenation)
    Could it be other mechanism ?

  • I started taking Clemastine Fumarate by prescription to treat my bouts of rhinitis and sinusitis, which when they appear are very strong.

    I'll check how my injuries are.

    • MD I was more concerned about my allergic rhinitis, it was bothering me too much.

      My EDSS for now is 0, I have no symptoms (which is pretty weird for someone with cervical spinal cord injury and who got to have EDSS 3.5 when in relapse) but I'll check if there was a change in my future MRI.

      It would now be interesting if Clemastine was added to the treatment of relapse, along with the corticosteroid, and later DMT.

  • With regards to the Army as risk factor for MS, a potential relationship between military service and neurodegeneration has been identified in other diseases, such as in ALS. It is interesting but it may well represent a link between the disease and other known risk factors such as exposure to pollution or head injury. Very large-scale epidemiological studies are required to filter out such information and people are often very skeptical about the findings because of the amount of other factors which need considering. Certainly food for thought though.

  • Interesting link with MS and military service. I grew up in a military family, and then married my husband who served for over 20 years. I'm diagnosed with MS.
    My sister in law grew up in a military family, and then served as well . She also suffers from MS.
    Makes you wonder what that link may be. We were as Dr. G mentioned scrawny, tan kids who loved to be outside. One would think we didn't have the low Vit D, or obesity risk factors associated with MS.

  • "In school tests in Argentina, people who were later to get MS could be more easily spotted, so there may be subtle effects."

    So how early does MS begin? A serious study on this could yield the EBV causation theory a mere firework.

  • Another example of MS, being a transmutable disease. A study done in Australia showed MS did not exist in Australia 150 years ago until the arrival of English speaking migrants. Maybe we need maverick scientist like Barry Marshal who went against pharma to prove ulcers were caused by bacteria. Same situation now exist in MS. BTW any cases of MS amongst Australian aborigines?

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