What is the position of NEMSN regarding the cause of Eosinophilia- Myalgia Syndrome?

Many people believe genetically altered bacteria used in the production of l-tryptophan by Showa Denko KK of Japan was the cause of EMS. Scientists also consider poor filtration during manufacturing to be the other significant factor.

The specific contaminant has never been identified.

Because the NEMSN organization is not a scientific body, the Board called upon members of its medical advisory board to develop a position in May 2000. The rationale is stated clearly in the statement below by Gerald Gleich, M.D. formerly with the Allergic Diseases Research Laboratory, Departments of Immunology and Medicine, Mayo Clinic and Foundation, the leading researcher on L-Tryptophan and EMS.

The NEMSN position is: Even though the bacteria used to produce L-Tryptophan were genetically modified, there is insufficient evidence to prove that these modifications were solely responsible for the contaminants linked to the illness Eosinophilia Myalgia Syndrome."

Recently, thanks to the House and Senate appropriations committee, NEMSN members were successful in encouraging the first independently funded NIH research money towards identifying the cause; prevent the re-occurance; and improve the treatment of EMS.

The board of directors is also on record as supporting the need for more study, labeling, safeguards and regulations on genetically engineered foods and health food products.

Sharron Lobaugh, President NEMSN (written in 2000)


Statement of Gerald J. Gleich, M.D, formerly with the Allergic Diseases Research Laboratory, Departments of Immunology and Medicine, Mayo Clinic and Foundation, and a leading expert on this issue:

"The issues are twofold:

"Tryptophan itself clearly is not the cause of EMS in that individuals 
who consumed product from companies other than Showa Denko 
did not develop EMS."

"The evidence points to Showa Denko product as the culprit and to 
the contaminants as the cause. But we still do not know which  
contaminant and therefore we cannot know whether the fermentation 
process employing the genetically altered bacterium was responsible.
In retrospect, the essence of the matter comes down to a question of 
chemical purity and had the Showa Denko product been sufficiently 
pure the epidemic would not have occurred."

A direct link was found to the consumption of contaminated L-Tryptophan (LT) manufactured by a single petrochemical company, Showa Denko KK of Japan. (In its natural form LT is an amino acid found in such foods as milk and turkey.) Showa Denko KK acknowledged that as many as six different strains of bacteria were used to increase production. In addition, steps in the purification process using carbon filters were changed possibly leaving a number of unidentified contaminants."

For more information regarding the Genetic Engineering aspect of this issue, please read:
Summary of Tryptophan Toxicity Incident by John Fagan

For additional information regarding EMS from Gerald Gleich M.D., please read:
Current Status of Research on EMS: Gerald J. Gleich, M.D.