Claudia Miller, MD, University of Texas Health Science Center, April 2005.
My name is Dr. Claudia Miller. I have no financial interests in this hearing, and I’m here at my own expense. I’m a professor at University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio. I’m an allergist/immunologist. And my research is focused on people who report chronic disabling symptoms following some environmental exposure, the symptoms you have heard about today.
I have served as a consultant to the Department of Veterans Affairs on Gulf War veterans, the EPA on sick buildings, the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research on temporomandibular joint implants, where, by the way, you see similar kinds of complaints.
What unites ill Gulf War veterans, sick building occupants, and patient with implants who are having problems is the fact that following a well-defined exposure event, a subset, not every one, a subset of them, go on to lose their prior natural tolerance for a wide variety of substances that are structurally unrelated.
Thereafter, common foods, medications, alcoholic beverages, caffeine, chemical inhalants, like diesel exhaust, and fragrances you have heard about today, exposures that never bothered people before suddenly trigger symptoms in them. And these can be disabling.
This two-step disease process — and has come to be known as toxicant-induced loss of tolerance, or TILT. It does not appear to matter whether the exposure that initiated this, which is at the bottom of the right-hand slide, was endogenous or exogenous. The body’s response is remarkably similar.
We have reported on 87 individuals with surgical implants, three-quarters of them with breast implants. Sixty-nine percent reported rupture. Seventy-eight percent had one or more implants removed. Of those who had undergone explanation, less than ten percent reported their health status as greatly improved.
Using a validated questionnaire, we found that the symptom severity scores of implant recipients rivaled those of the environmental exposed groups we were studying. And there were four of those.
Compared to controls, implant recipients reported much more severe adverse responses to everyday chemical exposures as well as having problems with various foods, medications, alcoholic beverages, and caffeine.
Toxicant-induced loss of tolerance is a new paradigm for environmentally induced disease that differs from classical toxicity and allergy.
Affected individuals may be completely unaware of the intolerances resulting from this because of a phenomenon we call masking. If a person is reacting to many different things and having symptoms as a result of those, then the symptoms may overlap in time. And, consequently, they feel sick all of the time, often reporting chronic fatigue or flu-like illness that won’t go away.
Recent Canadian studies show that genetic polymorphisms may determine who is more vulnerable to developing this illness. And in September I will be chairing a meeting on the toxicant-induced loss of tolerance sponsored by two NIH institutes where we’ll be discussing various aspects, clinical models, animal models, and so on, in order to understand this problem better in providing you with a questionnaire that I showed a moment ago to help physicians and researchers better understand this problem.
And I will be happy to provide you with any references. Thank you.