WASHINGTON, Aug. 5 (UPI) -- The U.S. Army should look at whether the anthrax vaccine is behind the unexplained cluster of pneumonia cases among soldiers in Iraq, according to the co-author of a government-sponsored study that last year found the vaccine was the "possible or probable" cause of pneumonia in two soldiers.
Dr. John L. Sever of George Washington University Medical School told United Press International Tuesday that he expects the military to consider the anthrax vaccine, among other possibilities, as it investigates pneumonia among soldiers in and around Iraq, where troops have been widely vaccinated against anthrax.
The Pentagon announced Tuesday it is investigating 100 cases of pneumonia among soldiers in Iraq and southwestern Asia. Two have died. Fifteen have had to be placed on respirators.
"As physicians, I would think they would be looking at all possible causes. I would think vaccines would be part of that," said Sever, a medical professor at George Washington who was one of six authors of the study. Col. Robert DeFraites from the Army Surgeon General's office told reporters at the Pentagon briefing Tuesday that biological warfare -- including smallpox or anthrax -- was unlikely to be the cause of the pneumonia. He did not mention vaccines as a possible cause, and the issue was not raised by reporters.
DeFraites and spokeswoman Virginia Stephanakis of the Army Surgeon General's office did not return calls Tuesday asking whether the Pentagon was looking into a possible vaccine connection.
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