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J Intern Med. 2010 Apr;267(4):394-401. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2796.2009.02160.x.

Abnormalities in pH handling by peripheral muscle and potential regulation by the autonomic nervous system in chronic fatigue syndrome.

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Institute of Cellular Medicine, Newcastle University, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, UK.



To examine muscle acid handling following exercise in chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS/ME) and the relationship with autonomic dysfunction.


Observational study.


Regional fatigue service. SUBJECTS & INTERVENTIONS: Chronic fatigue syndrome (n = 16) and age and sex matched normal controls (n = 8) underwent phosphorus magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) to evaluate pH handling during exercise. Subjects performed plantar flexion at fixed 35% load maximum voluntary contraction. Heart rate variability was performed during 10 min supine rest using digital photophlethysmography as a measure of autonomic function.


Compared to normal controls, the CFS/ME group had significant suppression of proton efflux both immediately postexercise (CFS: 1.1 +/- 0.5 mmol L(-1) min(-1) vs. normal: 3.6 +/- 1.5 mmol L(-1) min(-1), P < 0.001) and maximally (CFS: 2.7 +/- 3.4 mmol L(-1) min(-1) vs. control: 3.8 +/- 1.6 mmol L(-1) min(-1), P < 0.05). Furthermore, the time taken to reach maximum proton efflux was significantly prolonged in patients (CFS: 25.6 +/- 36.1 s vs. normal: 3.8 +/- 5.2 s, P < 0.05). In controls the rate of maximum proton efflux showed a strong inverse correlation with nadir muscle pH following exercise (r(2) = 0.6; P < 0.01). In CFS patients, in contrast, this significant normal relationship was lost (r(2) = 0.003; P = ns). In normal individuals, the maximum proton efflux following exercise were closely correlated with total heart rate variability (r(2) = 0.7; P = 0.007) this relationship was lost in CFS/ME patients (r(2) < 0.001; P = ns).


Patients with CFS/ME have abnormalities in recovery of intramuscular pH following standardised exercise degree of which is related to autonomic dysfunction. This study identifies a novel biological abnormality in patients with CFS/ME which is potentially open to modification.

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