Mono And Epstein-Barr Virus Feel Like Chronic Fatigue

John Gray

Between 836,000 and 2.5 million Americans suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome, and an estimated 84 percent to 91 percent of people with the disorder are not diagnosed.

Chronic fatigue syndrome tends to strike people in their 40s and 50s, and occurs four times more often in women than men.

A new study, published in Science Advances, found that chronic fatigue syndrome appears to be linked to specific changes in a person's immune system, particularly increased amounts of chemical messengers that regulate immune responses.

The study gathered data from 298 people diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome and 348 healthy "control" subjects. Participants provided blood samples and researchers analyzed the blood, looking at the presence of cells and chemicals related to the immune system.

"The study adds to growing evidence that chronic fatigue syndrome is caused by a malfunctioning immune system," said lead author Dr. Mady Hornig, director of Translational Research at the Jerome L. and Dawn Greene Infectious Disease Laboratory at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, in New York City.

The study revealed that the immune system of a new chronic fatigue syndrome patient appears unable to shut down or reduce its response to an infection that has passed. Instead, the system continues to pump out large amounts of cytokines -- chemical messengers that coordinate the response of the immune system's many cell types.

"Their immune system is no longer resilient and able to bounce back after this cytokine surge," , Hornig explains. "We need the system to be regulated, so it shuts off after the disease is gone, and that isn't happening with people suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome."

The results indicate that there are stages of chronic fatigue syndrome, and that new patients likely need treatments different from those who have had chronic fatigue syndrome for a long time.

"It may be possible to prevent the long-term consequences of this illness by intervening early and dampening down these cytokines," she said. "It also has implications for the very large population of people who have had this disease for a long time and for whom a different strategy may be important."

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