A systematic review of cytokines in chronic fatigue syndrome /myalgic encephalomyelitis/ systemic exertion intolerance disease (CFS/ME/SEID) by Matthew Corbitt, Natalie Eaton-Fitch, Donald Staines, Hélène Cabanas & Sonya Marshall-Gradisnik in BMC Neurology volume 19, Article number: 207 (2019) [Published: 24 August 2019]


Research abstract:

Background: Cytokines in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/ Systemic Exertion Intolerance Disease (CFS/ME/SEID) patients compared with healthy controls have been extensively studied. However, the evidence regarding whether a baseline difference between CFS/ME/SEID patients and the normal population remains unclear.

The aim of this study was to conduct a systematic review of the literature regarding cytokines in CFS/ME/SEID and whether there is a significant difference in cytokine levels between this patient group and the normal population.

Methods: Pubmed, Scopus, Medline (EBSCOHost), and EMBASE databases were searched to source relevant studies for CFS/ME/SEID. The review included any studies examining cytokines in CFS/ME/SEID patients compared with healthy controls. Results of the literature search were summarised according to aspects of their study design and outcome measures, namely, cytokines. Quality assessment was also completed to summarise the level of evidence available.

Results: A total of 16,702 publications were returned using our search terms. After screening of papers according to our inclusion and exclusion criteria, 15 studies were included in the review. All the included studies were observational case control studies. Ten of the studies identified measured serum cytokines in CFS/ME/SEID patients, and four measured cytokines in other physiological fluids of CFS/ME/SEID patients. The overall quality assessment revealed most papers included in this systematic review to be consistent.

Conclusions: Despite the availability of moderate quality studies, the findings of this review are inconclusive as to whether cytokines play any definitive role in CFS/ME/SEID, and consequently, they would not serve as reliable biomarkers. Therefore, in light of these results, it is recommended that further efforts toward a diagnostic test and treatment for CFS/ME/SEID continue to be developed in a range of research fields.

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