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J Clin Immunol. 1993 Jan;13(1):30-40.

Lymphocyte phenotype and function in the chronic fatigue syndrome.

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  • 1Medical Virology Section, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892.


Lymphocytes of 18 patients meeting the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) case definition for the chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), 10 similar, chronically fatigued patients not fully conforming to the CDC case definition, and 17 matched, healthy individuals were studied to determine the presence of abnormalities of peripheral cell phenotype and function. Extensive phenotypic analyses of B- and T-cell subsets, natural killer (NK) cells, and macrophages were performed using single-, dual-, and three-color flow cytometry. Compared to controls, in CFS patients the percentage of CD4 T cells and CD4,CD45RA, or naive T cells, was reduced. The CD4,CD45RO, or memory T-cell, subset was numerically normal but expressed increased levels of adhesion markers (CD29, CD54, and CD58). CFS patient lymphocytes showed reduced proliferative responses to phytohemagglutinin, concanavalin A, and staphylococcal enterotoxin B. Lymphocytes from fatigue patients not meeting the CDC definition showed similar abnormalities. These data indicate that peripheral T cells manifest an increased state of differentiation in CFS and related conditions. This may arise as a consequence of an underlying neuropsychiatric and/or neuroendocrine disorder or because of exposure to antigens or superantigens of an infectious agent.

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