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J Infect Dis. 1998 Feb;177(2):451-4.

CD4 T lymphocytes from patients with chronic fatigue syndrome have decreased interferon-gamma production and increased sensitivity to dexamethasone.

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  • 1Division of Immunological and Infectious Diseases, TNO Prevention and Health, Leiden Amsterdam Center for Drug Research, The Netherlands.


A disturbed hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal gland axis and alterations at the immune system level have been observed in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). Glucocorticoids are known to modulate T cell responses; therefore, purified CD4 T cells from CFS patients were studied to determine whether they have an altered sensitivity to dexamethasone (DEX). CD4 T cells from CFS patients produced less interferon-gamma than did cells from controls; by contrast, interleukin-4 production and cell proliferation were comparable. With CD4 T cells from CFS patients (compared with cells from controls), a 10- to 20-fold lower DEX concentration was needed to achieve 50% inhibition of interleukin-4 production and proliferation, indicating an increased sensitivity to DEX in CFS patients. Surprisingly, interferon-gamma production in patients and controls was equally sensitive to DEX. A differential sensitivity of cytokines or CD4 T cell subsets to glucocorticoids might explain an altered immunologic function in CFS patients.

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