According to a new study, chronic fatigue syndrome is an actual biological illness. However, this latest research declaration is generating controversy among some researchers who believe the condition is primarily psychological.
Chronic fatigue Syndrome (CFS), which is also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), is marked by sleeplessness, poor concentration, mental and physical fatigue, and pain within muscles and joints. Around 17 million people around the globe suffer from CFS, and there is no known cure.
However, the researchers from Columbia University have singled out a group of molecules involved in the body’s immune response to infections, which were present at higher levels in blood samples of ME/CFS patients when compared to people without the condition.
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, and the lead author of the study, said, “The study adds to growing evidence that chronic fatigue syndrome is caused by a malfunctioning immune system. Their immune system is no longer resilient and able to bounce back after this cytokine surge. We need the system to be regulated, so it shuts off after the disease is gone, and that isn’t happening here.”
For their study, the researchers studied blood plasma samples from 298 CFS sufferers and 348 control subjects, searching for 51 immune biomarkers. The researchers found higher levels of cytokines in the patients suffering from ME/CFS. Cytokines is a small protein in the immune system.
Researchers added that concentrations of interferon gamma, which is a form of cytokine often associated with fatigue following viral infections, were found to be correlated to CFS. The common Epstein-Barr virus, responsible for mononucleosis, is one of the microorganisms that can trigger the presence of interferon gamma.
“We now have evidence confirming what millions of people with this disease already know — that ME/CFS isn’t psychological,” added Hornig.
Researchers believe that the new findings could help in the development of new treatments for the condition.
The findings were published in the Science Advances journal.