Our body protects us through our immune system. This functions and enable us not easyly be infected by visruses. What would happend if this system changes? Myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) is an unexplained illness that may affect up to 4 million patients in the United States.
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, researchers report.
“Their immune system is no longer resilient and able to bounce back after this cytokine surge” in response to an infection, Hornig said. “We need the system to be regulated, so it shuts off after the disease is gone, and that isn't happening here.”
Doctors now can look for increased levels of these chemicals in the blood of patients who might have chronic fatigue syndrome, potentially aiding in their diagnosis, she said.
“We may be able to reduce the time it takes to get a diagnosis, and reduce the time it takes to get them some treatment,” Hornig said. Treating chronic fatigue syndrome early could reduce its future impact on patients' lives, she added.
The new study, published Feb. 27 in the journal Science Advances, comes on the heels of a new Institute of Medicine report that declared chronic fatigue syndrome a “legitimate” illness that should be treated by doctors as a disease rather than an emotional problem.
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, according to the IOM. Chronic fatigue syndrome tends to strike people in their 40s and 50s, and occurs four times more often in women than men.
They noted that distinct increases occurred in the cytokine levels of people who'd been diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome for fewer than three years, compared with both the “healthy” controls and people with long-term CFS. The changes are only present early on in the course of disease, and don't appear in long-term patients.
The findings mesh with other recent research that has linked chronic fatigue syndrome to a faulty immune system, said Dr. Jacob Teitelbaum, director of the Fatigue & Fibromyalgia Practitioners Network.
People with long-term chronic fatigue syndrome, then, are saddled with worn-out immune systems that struggle to combat even the mild infections that healthy immune system would shrug off quickly, he said.
Distinct increases occurred in the cytokine levels of patients who'd been diagnosed with CFS for fewer than three years, compared with both the healthy controls and people with long-term CFS, noted the researchers. The changes are only present early on in the course of disease, and don't appear in long-term patients. The results indicate that there are stages of CFS, and that new patients likely need treatments different from those who have had CFS for a long time, according to the scientists.
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