Towards a Treatment for Gulf War Illness: A Consensus Docking Approach

Mil Med. 2020 Jan 7;185(Suppl 1):554-561. doi: 10.1093/milmed/usz299.


Introduction: Gulf War Illness (GWI) currently has no known cure and affects soldiers deployed during the Persian Gulf War. It is thought to originate from exposure to neurotoxicants combined with battlefield stress, and previous research indicates that treatment first involves inhibition of interleukin-2 and tumor necrosis factor alpha, followed by the glucocorticoid receptor. However, the off-target effects of pharmaceuticals hinder development of a drug treatment therapy.

Materials and methods: AutoDock 4.2, AutoDock Vina, and Schrodinger's Glide were used to perform consensus docking, a computational technique where pharmaceuticals are screened against targets using multiple scoring algorithms to obtain consistent binding affinities. FDA approved pharmaceuticals were docked against the above-mentioned immune and stress targets to determine a drug therapy for GWI. Additionally, the androgen and estrogen targets were screened to avoid pharmaceuticals with off-target interactions.

Results: While suramin bound to both immune targets with high affinity, top binders of the hormonal and glucocorticoid targets were non-specific towards their respective proteins, possibly due to high structure similarity between these proteins.

Conclusions: Development of a drug treatment therapy for GWI is threatened by the tight interplay between the immune and hormonal systems, often leading to drug interactions. Increasing knowledge of these interactions can lead to break-through therapies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Consensus*
  • Humans
  • Lymphokines / therapeutic use*
  • Persian Gulf Syndrome / drug therapy*
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor Inhibitors / therapeutic use*


  • Lymphokines
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor Inhibitors
  • interleukin 2 inhibitor