Study shows immune differences in moderate and severe chronic fatigue syndrome (Fukuda criteria)

by Sasha Nimmo

An Australian university’s longitudinal study into immune changes in people with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) may lead to diagnostic test.

Griffith University researchers have looked at the immune systems of patients with moderate and severe CFS (1994 Fukuda criteria) once, then again six months later. The study has just been published in the Journal of Translational Medicine.

They found severe CFS patients had significant NK (Natural Killer) cell receptor differences over time, compared to controls and moderate CFS, along with other alterations suggesting severe patients have an enhanced immune activation. In moderate CFS/ME patients,  iNKT* CD62L expression significantly increased over time.

The study shows it is important to look at potential immune biomarkers over time in both moderate and severe patients and it may lead to a test based on immunological markers.

This is the first study investigating immune cells over six months while also examining CFS patients of varying symptom severity.  It included 18 healthy controls, 12 moderate and 12 severe CFS patients. The severity of the patients’ illness was identified using a questionnaire.

Griffith University point out research has established immunological abnormalities, which you can see in their other studies at the National Centre for Neuroimmunology and Emerging Diseases.  Reduced Natural Killer (NK) cell cytotoxic activity is the most predominant and consistent outcome of immunological studies in CFS.

*According to NatureiNKT or Invariant natural killer T cells exist in a ‘poised effector’ state, which enables them to rapidly produce cytokines following activation. Using a nearly monospecific T cell receptor, they recognize self and foreign lipid antigens presented by CD1d in a conserved manner, but their activation can catalyse a spectrum of polarized immune responses.


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