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J Aging Res. 2016;2016:2497348. doi: 10.1155/2016/2497348. Epub 2016 Feb 22.

Understanding Muscle Dysfunction in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

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Institute of Cellular Medicine, Newcastle University, Newcastle NE2 4HH, UK.
Institute of Cellular Medicine, Newcastle University, Newcastle NE2 4HH, UK; Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, UK NIHR Biomedical Research Centre in Ageing and Age Related Disease, Newcastle University, Newcastle NE2 4HH, UK.



Chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME) is a debilitating disorder of unknown aetiology, characterised by severe disabling fatigue in the absence of alternative diagnosis. Historically, there has been a tendency to draw psychological explanations for the origin of fatigue; however, this model is at odds with findings that fatigue and accompanying symptoms may be explained by central and peripheral pathophysiological mechanisms, including effects of the immune, oxidative, mitochondrial, and neuronal pathways. For example, patient descriptions of their fatigue regularly cite difficulty in maintaining muscle activity due to perceived lack of energy. This narrative review examined the literature for evidence of biochemical dysfunction in CFS/ME at the skeletal muscle level.


Literature was examined following searches of PUB MED, MEDLINE, and Google Scholar, using key words such as CFS/ME, immune, autoimmune, mitochondria, muscle, and acidosis.


Studies show evidence for skeletal muscle biochemical abnormality in CFS/ME patients, particularly in relation to bioenergetic dysfunction.


Bioenergetic muscle dysfunction is evident in CFS/ME, with a tendency towards an overutilisation of the lactate dehydrogenase pathway following low-level exercise, in addition to slowed acid clearance after exercise. Potentially, these abnormalities may lead to the perception of severe fatigue in CFS/ME.

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