CBS CHICAGO — The story of the returning veteran never ends. A researcher in Peoria is investigating Gulf War Syndrome, more than twenty years after the end of the short-lived conflict with Iraq.

Steve Lasley, assistant head of the Department of Cancer Biology & Pharmacology at the University of Illinois College of Medicine, said it took years for people to shed their skepticism of the illness, marked by a “general malaise,” depression, aches and pains, etc.

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“It was difficult to see (the symptoms) as a unified and distinct syndrome … the Department of Defense didn’t recognize there was a problem there,” he said. “There was a great deal of skepticism from physicians, and from the research community, about the authenticity of these complaints. And it took seven or eight years for the scientific and clinical communities to understand that there was really something there.”

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Anti-nerve gas drugs are now thought to be a cause of the syndrome, as are insect repellents given to the soldiers. He estimated about one in four soldiers who served in the first war with Iraq came back with Gulf War Syndrome. Lasley said those products, combined with the stress of war, have apparently weakened their immune systems.

“At the very least, you want to understand what caused this disorder so we don’t repeat it in future situations,” said Lasley. He said future research will include testing of anti-inflammatory drugs, and consulting with scientists at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – all with mice, as opposed to people.

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LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Dave Dahl reports