Study shows immune differences in moderate and severe CFS/ME

Australian university’s longitudinal study into immune changes in patients with CFS/ME may lead to diagnostic test
Griffith University researchers have looked at the immune systems of patients with moderate and severe CFS/ME (1994 Fukuda criteria) once, then again six months later. The study has just been published in the Journal of Translational Medicine.
They found severe CFS/ME patients had significant NK (Natural Killer) cell receptor differences over time, compared to controls and moderate CFS/ME, along with other alterations suggesting severe patients have an enhanced immune activation. In moderate CFS/ME patients,  iNKT* CD62L expression significantly increased over time.
The study shows it is important to look at potential immune biomarkers over time in both moderate and severe patients and it may lead to a test based on immunological markers.
This is the first study investigating immune cells over six months while also examining CFS/ME patients of varying symptom severity.  It included 18 healthy controls, 12 moderate and 12 severe CFS/ME patients. The severity of the patients’ illness was identified using a questionnaire.
Griffith University point out research has established immunological abnormalities, which you can see in their other studies at the National Centre for Neuroimmunology and Emerging Diseases.  Reduced Natural Killer (NK) cell cytotoxic activity is the most predominant and consistent outcome of immunological studies in CFS/ME.
*According to NatureiNKT or Invariant natural killer T cells exist in a ‘poised effector’ state, which enables them to rapidly produce cytokines following activation. Using a nearly monospecific T cell receptor, they recognize self and foreign lipid antigens presented by CD1d in a conserved manner, but their activation can catalyse a spectrum of polarized immune responses.


11 thoughts on “Study shows immune differences in moderate and severe CFS/ME”

  1. Great to see other countries like Australia trying to help all of us suffering with ME, a real illness that I’ve had since 1987. Watched my children grow up from my bed or home. Now my husband continues to care for me. Always prayed no one would experience this illness and all the loss that comes with it, now my youngest son, 35 years old has become ill with ME. Thank you for any research that can help all who suffer.

    1. Marcia,
      I’m so sorry to read that. I’m about your son’s age and imagine how difficult it must be to both have ME and see someone you love suffer as well.
      Griffith University seem to have committed researchers working hard on the problem, along with other interesting research happening around the world, and hope they can find solutions for us.
      best wishes,

  2. I’m curious how they distinguish between a moderate and a severe case of ME/CFS. If anyone knows, I’d appreciate it if you’d share this information. Please feel free to use my email – [email protected]. Thanks

    1. Hi Nancy,
      The paper says they used the Fatigue Severity Scale (FSS), Dr Bell’s Disability Scale, the FibroFatigue Scale & the Karnofsky Performance Scale as measurement tools. They also say that severe patients were housebound.
      kind regards,

  3. The team distinguish severity of cases via a comprehensive questionnaire. You can find it on the NCNED website.

  4. North Lake Tahoe Bonanza
    Nov 16 1987
    “Incline Victims Show Cell Abnormalities”
    Tests Reveal New Clue in Fatiguing Illness
    by Chris Fotheringham
    NLTB Managing Editor
    Laboratory results published this week in a prestigious medical journal confirm that over 50% of Incline Village chronic fatigue patients tested have suffered “dramatic” abnormalities in their immune systems.
    Calling it the “most significant finding yet” in efforts to unravel the mystery of the widespread fatigue illness, Harvard researcher Dr. Anthony Komaroff said Monday the report published Sunday in the Journal of Immunology is the first scientific study that confirms “something is wrong with these people.”
    “it is really dramatic.” said Komaroff, who is chief of general medicine at a Harvard teaching hospital in Boston.
    The article, which underwent nearly 11 months of peer review before being published, was authored by Komaroff, Incline Village internist Dr.Daniel Peterson, and former Incline internist Dr Paul Cheney.
    Dr Michael Caligiuri, an immunologist with the Dana-Farber Cancer institute of the Harvard Medical Center, was the lead author for the article which was originally submitted for review in January.
    Komaroff says test results reveal an attack on the immune system’s “natural killer cell” which is the body’s primary means of killing virus-infected cells or cells that become cancerous.
    Komaroff said “There is a substantial reduction in the number of natural killer cells in patients tested.” He said the study has determined that this “major defense against virus infection and cancer” is damaged in over half of the test cases involving Incline Village patients.
    Komaroff first brought his team of researchers to Incline Village in February of 1986 after Incline doctors Cheney and Peterson had documented an outbreak of approximately 200 cases of mononucleosis-type illnesses in the North Tahoe and Truckee area beginning in the fall of 1985.
    While the Incline Village cluster of fatigue cases has drawn primary attention in the national media, researchers have found widespread occurrence of the illness throughout the country.
    See TESTS on page 9.

    1. Hi Erik,
      That is both fascinating and frightening that this information was available nearly 30 years ago. Perhaps I should write a few ‘Throwback Thursday’ articles on important older research?
      thank you,

      1. I am reading “Osler’s Web” by Hillary Johnson. Yes, Sasha, Erik Johnson doesn’t say this information, plus the whole unfortunate story is available in Osler’s Web. Reading all the medical community’s (at that time in the 1980’s) horrible attitude (including HHS and NIH and CDC (especially), has made me very angry that the proposition that it was all psychiatric was the mantra throughout the US. The clinicians and governmental employees were more interested in their published reports than in the poor patients who were so sick. I recommend very highly for everyone to read the book. It is an indepth history of that time. Unfortunately, it was also the rise of the AIDS epidemic, so that took precedence over any possible attention to the Incline Village patients and all the other “clusters” around the country and in other areas in the globe.

  5. Hi Marcia,
    I just wanted to say you’re not alone. I hadn’t heard of anyone being sick with M.E. as long as myself until now. I really feel for you. I was diagnosed when I was 17 and am now almost 39. I can definitely relate to the loss you speak of. I feel like I’ve been grieving most of my life. I just wanted to mention to yourself, and anyone reading, that you might consider looking into Low Dose Naltrexone. It has been a big game changer for some people. I had it prescribed through my ND, (as you have to get it through a compounding pharmacy) and am going to be starting it shortly. I typically stay away from medications, but this one is an exception for many.
    Here is a link to follow if you want to find out more:
    Praying for us all!

    1. Ken Lassesen first got ME/CFS in 1970. He had his first relapse in 1999, then recovered until 2012, when he had his second relapse, confirmed by MRI findings. He’s since recovered and is back at work once again. He has a blog and is also on Facebook.

    2. Stacy, my daughter has been on LDN for more than a year, and it has helped her very much. She is able to function, cognitively. Periodically, the dose has to be increased, however. The body gets used to it, and so she notices the difference and gets a higher dose from her doctor. It really works for her.

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