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What was the research into immune responses in CFS/M.E. you funded about?

Project summary: By Prof Stephen Todryk, Northumbria University

There are likely to be many causes of CFS/M.E., but various laboratories report that immune function in people with CFS/M.E. is different to otherwise healthy people. CFS/M.E. often follows after an infection, and the immune response that usually fights the infection may become out of control in CFS/M.E. So the measurement of immune responses may tell us about the cause and severity of a person’s disease and suggest how it can be treated.

Our research in Newcastle has involved the clinical network at the local hospitals and the immunology lab at Northumbria University. We recruited 50 people with CFS/M.E. whose illness was measured for severity, and we made many measurements of their immune systems (white blood cells and antibodies).

We found that people with worse disease had fewer cells called natural killer (NK) cells, known to fight viruses. They also had less antibody against bacteria called mycoplasma, but more inflammatory interferon. This is interesting, and the study of larger numbers of patients over a period of time will help to prove these associations, making these measurements useful for working out new and effective ways of diagnosis and treatment of CFS/M.E.

Summary of findings

Significant results:

  • NK cells are reduced with increased fatigue severity
  • CD57+ NK cells are reduced with increased fatigue severity
  • Antibodies against Mycoplasma are reduced with increased fatigue severity
  • Non-specific IFN-gamma production is increased with increased fatigue severity
  • CMV IgM is increased with increased fatigue severity