Immunity and the pathophysiology of chronic fatigue syndrome
Ciba Found Symp. 1993;173:176-87; discussion 187-92
Immunity and the pathophysiology of chronic fatigue syndrome.
Laboratory of Molecular Immunoregulation, National Cancer Institute, Frederick, MD 21702-1201.
The pathophysiology of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) remains unknown. The syndrome often follows a recognized or presumed infection and the disorder may therefore result from a disordered immune response to a precipitating infection or antigenic challenge. Abnormalities of both humoral and cellular immunity have been demonstrated in a substantial proportion of patients with CFS. The most consistent findings are of impaired lymphocyte responses to mitogen and reduced natural killer cell cytotoxicity.
Cutaneous anergy and immunoglobulin G subclass deficiencies have also been found. Further studies are needed examining cytokine levels in serum and cerebrospinal fluid, and cytokine production in vitro in patients with CFS. Interpretation of the findings of published studies of immunity is limited by probable heterogeneity in the patient groups studied, and by the lack of standardization and reproducibility in the assays used. The pattern of abnormalities reported in immunological testing in patients with CFS is consistent with the changes seen during the resolving phases of acute viral infection. These data provide circumstantial support for the hypothesis that CFS results from a disordered immune response to an infection. Longitudinal studies of immunity in patients developing CFS after defined infectious illnesses will provide the best means of further examining this hypothesis.