Gulf War syndrome: is it due to a systemic shift in cytokine balance towards a Th2 profile?

Lancet. 1997 Jun 21;349(9068):1831-3. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(97)01164-1.


The symptoms of Gulf War syndrome are compatible with the hypothesis that the immune system of affected individuals is biased towards a Th2-cytokine pattern. Factors that could lead to a Th2 shift among Gulf War veterans include exposure to multiple Th2-inducing vaccinations under stressful circumstances and the way in which such vaccinations were administered, which would be expected to maximise Th2 immunogenicity. These factors may have led to a long-term systemic shift towards a Th2-cytokine balance and to mood changes related to the immunoendocrine state. Other vaccines that lead to similar long-term, non-specific shifts in cytokine balance are well-established. If our hypothesis is proven, treatment may be possible with regimens that induce a systemic Th1 bias.

MeSH terms

  • Affect
  • Animals
  • Cytokines / biosynthesis*
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone / metabolism
  • Depressive Disorder / complications
  • Depressive Disorder / metabolism
  • Fatigue Syndrome, Chronic / immunology
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / metabolism
  • Persian Gulf Syndrome / immunology*
  • Persian Gulf Syndrome / metabolism
  • Persian Gulf Syndrome / psychology
  • Stress, Physiological / immunology
  • Th2 Cells / immunology*
  • Th2 Cells / metabolism
  • Vaccines / immunology


  • Cytokines
  • Vaccines
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone
  • Hydrocortisone