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By Sandra Maughans, P.A.
[Ed. Note: The following was given as the introduction of Professor Alan Cocchetto as he was being inducted into the Stueben County (NY) Hall of Fame in April.]

Professor Alan Cocchetto is an exceptionally bright, industrious, witty and deeply spiritual man. He is also a very accomplished professional. An engineering professor at Alfred Universtiy prior to becoming ill with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (more commonly and quite inappropriately known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome), Professor Cocchetto received his engineering degree from Purdue University and his Masters from Villanova and garnered many professional awards and citations in his capacity as an engineering professor.

However, the basis for my motion to nominate Alan to this year's Hall of Fame is his work toward an understanding of CFIDS/ME and can be summed up in one word, HOPE.

Hope is defined in Webster's Dictionary as "a desire for something good with at least a slight expectation of obtaining it or a belief that it is obtainable. It is the highest degree of well-founded expectation of good.

Can any of us live without hope? Take it away from us and we wither under the weight of life's burdens. Proverbs 13:12 reminds us that "Hope deferred maketh the heart sick, but a fulfilled longing becomes the tree of life."

Professor Cocchetto's primary accomplishment has been his astounding discovery that a swine virus is the primary cause of CFIDS/ME, MS, GWS and some forms of epilepsy. His brilliant and pioneering implementation of "evidence-based research" - a concept that combines engineering principles of signaling and feedback loops with conventional medical research is now being employed in medical schools throughout the country, including Harvard Medical School.

Calling upon his experience doing patent searches to support himself while in college, Alan was able to discover that many researchers, in fact, had made key discoveries about this illness and had, for reasons of personal gain, hidden their findings...preventing the development of a true model for the illness that would thereby allow for the development of an effective treatment.

MS and CFIDS/ME have a long history of unrewarding research efforts: the cause unknown, treatments ineffective or non-existent in the case of CFIDS/ME with the end result being years of suffering and a premature death. Just as MS was known as the fakers disease at the turn of the last century, so today's victims of ME/CFIDS are misunderstood and maligned by not only the physicians that are supposed to care for them but also family and friends. Many have lost everything: marriages, jobs, health, financial security, common respect and, most of all, hope.

I also want to mention the long years of commitment and dedication required of Alan as he taught himself aspects of medicine so complex as to be far beyond the comprehension of the average physician, sacrificing time with the family he adores, perhaps even sacrificing his own failing health. But this dedication, this relentless pursuit of the truth behind an illness where patients are scorned and trivialized, has paid off.

Under Al's leadership as medical director of the National CFIDS Foundation and in collaboration with world class researchers and physicians in the fields of oncology, infectious disease, immunology and toxicology, a working model for CFIDS/ME has been constructed, allowing researchers to finally be able to determine appropriate treatment.

This working model explains how the various 50-some symptoms of CFIDS/ME are caused by a swine virus named Parainfluenza Virus-5. This very vicious virus causes a complete collapse of the immune system over a period of years. The virus is also oncogenic or cancer-causing, as are most animal viruses that have crossed over to mankind.

In addition, the victim's cells produce a very potent neurotoxic lipid which accounts for the many MS-like symptoms that patients with CFIDS/ME experience. As patients become more and more toxic and the viral load increases, the collapse of the immune system allows for other viruses and bacteria to infect and multiply in the patient's body in much the same manner as in AIDS.

The ultimate endpoint of the disease is B-cell lymphoma as a direct result of the virus's ability to alter the stem cells in the bone marrow. So that after years of suffering, often remaining bedridden and being told by physicians that they are depressed and need exercise, patients succumb to failure of their vital organs, a variety of cancers or suicide. There has never been a treatment available to patients despite every indication that top level health organizations such as the NIH (National Institutes of Health) and CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) have known the cause and the true nature of the illness for a very long time.

In addition to these discoveries, Al has spent many long hours on the phone with patients from all over the country and, perhaps, even the world over. He lends an understanding ear, good advice or a word of encouragement to these suffering individuals looking for hope--a reasonable expectation that hints that most will finally get better.

The national foundation where Al serves as medical director maintains a Memorial List comprised of names of those who have died as a result of this illness. Life's burdens, decades without hope, has resulted in one of three persons on this list having taken their own lives.

When God chose to move in response to the tearful prayers of the suffering, He put a call on Al's life. And thanks to Al's selfless response to this call, receiving no compensation for his efforts, we are now very close to a treatment for CFIDS/ME.

Now, for millions of us all around the world, suffering with this life-sapping disorder, there is hope where once there was none. How does one thank a man for such a gift, the gift of hope? I am so very proud to know and to have nominated my dear friend, Alan Cocchetto, to the 2007 Steuben County Hall of Fame."

The National CFIDS Foundation * 103 Aletha Rd, Needham Ma 02492 * (781) 449-3535 Fax (781) 449-8606