Background: Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a debilitating neuro-immune disorder of unknown etiology diagnosed by an array of clinical manifestations. Although several immunological abnormalities have been described in CFS, their heterogeneity has limited diagnostic applicability.
Methods: Immunological features of CFS were screened in 22 CFS diagnosed individuals fulfilling Fukuda criteria and 30 control healthy individuals. Peripheral blood T, B and NK cell function and phenotype were analyzed by flow cytometry in both groups.
Results: CFS diagnosed individuals showed similar absolute numbers of T, B and NK cells, with minor differences in the percentage of CD4+ and CD8+ T cells. B cells showed similar subset frequencies and proliferative responses between groups. Conversely, significant differences were observed in T cell subsets. CFS individuals showed increased levels of T regulatory cells (CD25+/FOXP3+) CD4 T cells, and lower proliferative responses in vitro and in vivo. Moreover, CD8 T cells from the CFS group showed significantly lower activation and frequency of effector memory cells. No clear signs of T-cell immunosenescence were observed. NK cells from CFS individuals displayed higher expression of NKp46 and CD69 but lower expression of CD25 in all NK subsets defined. Overall, T cell and NK cell features clearly clustered CFS individuals.
Conclusions: Our findings suggest that alterations in T-cell phenotype and proliferative response along with the specific signature of NK cell phenotype may be useful to identify CFS individuals. The striking down modulation of T cell mediated immunity may help to understand intercurrent viral infections in CFS.
Screening NK-, B- and T-cell phenotype and function in patients suffering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. M Curriu et al Journal of Translational Medicine, 20th March 2013