Epidemic neuropathy in Cuba: A plea to end the United States economic embargo on a humanitarian basis
Nervous System Diseases
During 1992-1993, an epidemic of neurologic disease in Cuba affected 50,862 patients with optic neuropathy, sensorineural deafness, predominantly sensory peripheral neuropathy, and dorsolateral myelopathy. The clinical syndromes were identical to those of prisoners of war subjected to nutritional restriction in tropical prison camps during World War II (Strachan's disease). A dietary deficiency of group B vitamins and sulfur-containing amino acids appears to have been the primary cause of the epidemic. This was a consequence of economic and political events in Cuba linked to the collapse of the Soviet Union and socialist countries. The recently toughened 30-year-old US economic embargo on Cuba contributed to these problems and hampered the investigation, treatment, and prevention of the epidemic. A plea is made to the neurologic community to request the lifting of the trade blockade on a humanitarian basis.