Bacterial Overgrowth Associated With Chronic Multisymptom Illness Complex


The adverse impact of Gulf War Syndrome (GWS) on the health of veterans and on the resources of the VA Healthcare System underscores the need to resolve its underlying cause. In response, the investigators propose to investigate the central hypothesis that gut bacteria may be responsible for symptoms associated with GWS. The investigators will enroll a total of 120 patients with GWS and 90 healthy controls.

Study Type

  • Study Type: Interventional
  • Study Design
    • Allocation: Randomized
    • Intervention Model: Parallel Assignment
    • Primary Purpose: Treatment
    • Masking: Quadruple (Participant, Care Provider, Investigator, Outcomes Assessor)
  • Study Primary Completion Date: March 2014

Detailed Description

The investigator will assess the prevalence and role of abnormal gut microbial fermentation among Veterans with GWS and investigate the efficacy of diagnostic and treatment strategies directed at indigenous gut microbes in the management of GWS.


  • Procedure: Lactulose Breath Test
    • Test will begin with a baseline breath sample followed by ingestion of 10g of lactulose (Xactdose, South Beloit, IL) in 100ml of water. Breath samples will be collected every 15 min for 180 min. Gas samples will be analyzed for hydrogen and methane using a gas chromatograph (Model SC, Quintron Instruments, Milwaukee, WI).
  • Drug: Rifaximin
    • Rifaximin 600 mg three times a day by mouth (TID PO) x 10 days
  • Drug: Placebo
    • Placebo TID PO x 10 days

Arms, Groups and Cohorts

  • Active Comparator: 60 GWS Rifaximin
  • Placebo Comparator: 60 GWS Placebo
  • Experimental: Healthy Control
    • Patient is a healthy control and will not be on study intervention. Asked to perform Lactulose Breath Test to compare results with GWS patients.

Clinical Trial Outcome Measures

Primary Measures

  • To compare the pattern of bacterial gas excretion in breath among Veterans with Gulf War Syndrome vs. Controls using Lactulose Breath Test
    • Time Frame: every 15 minutes for 180 minutes
  • To determine the response to antibiotic treatment in Gulf War Syndrome patients.
    • Time Frame: Two weeks

Participating in This Clinical Trial

Inclusion Criteria

  • Gulf War Veterans meeting the 1994 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) criteria for the diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome(CFS), i.e > six months of one or more symptoms from at least two of the following three clusters: general fatigue, mood and cognitive abnormalities, and musculoskeletal pain
  • Must be under the care of a primary physician and have had a previous diagnosis of Gulf War-related illness or GWS and have medical records documenting investigations to rule out other causes of fatigue
  • Minimum of the following laboratory screening tests: complete blood count with leukocyte differential, erythrocyte sedimentation rate, serum electrolytes, calcium, glucose, blood urea nitrogen, creatinine,urinalysis, and thyroid function tests
  • Subjects must also have a GI consult first as part of routine care to confirm eligibility and availability
  • Patients with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), fibromyalgia (FM), anxiety or depression will not be excluded, but will be identified for subgroup analysis
  • Healthy controls will be screened with complete blood count (CBC) and comprehensive metabolic panel to confirm eligibility

Exclusion Criteria

  • History of peptic ulcer, inflammatory bowel disease, diabetes, cirrhosis, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, narcotic dependence,celiac disease, tropical sprue, bowel resection(including gastric, small bowel or colon; but gallbladder surgery or appendectomy are NOT exclusion criteria)
  • Patients with chronic illness (HIV, tuberculosis)
  • Pregnant or breast-feeding, psychotic depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, eating disorders
  • Healthy subjects will be excluded if their questionnaire indicated abnormal symptom profile

Gender Eligibility: All

Minimum Age: 21 Years

Maximum Age: N/A

Are Healthy Volunteers Accepted: Accepts Healthy Volunteers

Investigator Details

  • Lead Sponsor
    • Henry C. Lin, MD
  • Provider of Information About this Clinical Study
    • Sponsor-Investigator: Henry C. Lin, MD, Henry C. Lin, MD – New Mexico VA Healthcare System
  • Overall Contact(s)
    • Natalie R Mills, BS, 505-265-1711,

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