Diarrhea among US soldiers forces search for cure


The Pentagon has begun working on a cure for diarrhea as it is believed that 60 percent of deployed US soldiers have been afflicted.


Robert Nickelsberg

The Pentagon has taken aim at a little-reported problem among US military personnel: diarrhea.

Bloomberg reported that as much as 60 percent of deployed troops in Iraq suffered from diarrhea and that one million service days in Iraq and Afghanistan were lost to the illness.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which is concerned with keeping the US military at the forefront of new technology, is working on a medicine that gives fast relief to soldiers suffering from diarrhea, the flu and malaria.

“There’s a sense of urgency and you’re constantly thinking about where the next latrine is,” Mark Riddle, a US Navy commander who performs military medical research, told Bloomberg.

“In that kind of situation you start wondering how well a soldier can perform, target bad guys and do his or her mission.”

Studies have already been done on the scourge of diarrhea among US soldiers.

As far back as 1979, a study was done on newly deployed soldiers in South Korea, which found that over half of US soldiers experienced diarrhea in their first six weeks.

A 2010 report said that the monthly rate of diarrhea among deployed US soldiers was 29 percent.

The report said the illness has been a problem for the military since the Revolutionary War.

The DARPA project is using nucleic acids like DNA and not proteins that are used in most vaccines to find a cure.

Basing vaccines on genetic codes have not worked in large-scale drug company trials but DARPA, not accountable to shareholders who want quick returns, tends to work on projects with low success rates that may be revolutionary in the future, said Bloomberg.

A cure for diarrhea may be on the way.