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Keywords:

  • Chronic fatigue syndrome;
  • infection;
  • Mycoplasma;
  • human herpes virus-6;
  • Chlamydia

Previously we and others found that a majority of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) patients showed evidence of systemic mycoplasmal infections, and their blood tested positive using a polymerase chain reaction assay for at least one of the four following Mycoplasma species: M. fermentans, M. hominis, M. pneumoniae or M. penetrans. Consistent with previous results, patients in the current study (n=200) showed a high prevalence (overall 52%) of mycoplasmal infections. Using forensic polymerase chain reaction we also examined whether these same patients showed evidence of infections with Chlamydia pneumoniae (overall 7.5% positive) and/or active human herpes virus-6 (HHV-6, overall 30.5% positive). Since the presence of one or more infections may predispose patients to other infections, we examined the prevalence of C. pneumoniae and HHV-6 active infections in mycoplasma-positive and -negative patients. Unexpectedly, we found that the incidence of C. pneumoniae or HHV-6 was similar in Mycoplasma-positive and -negative patients, and the converse was also found in active HHV-6-positive and -negative patients. Control subjects (n=100) had low rates of mycoplasmal (6%), active HHV-6 (9%) or chlamydial (1%) infections, and there were no co-infections in control subjects. Differences in bacterial and/or viral infections in CFS patients compared to control subjects were significant. Severity and incidence of patients' signs and symptoms were compared within the above groups. Although there was a tendency for patients with multiple infections to have more severe signs and symptoms (p<0.01), the only significant differences found were in the incidence and severity of certain signs and symptoms in patients with multiple co-infections of any type compared to the other groups (p<0.01). There was no correlation between the type of co-infection and severity of signs and symptoms. The results indicate that a large subset of CFS patients show evidence of bacterial and/or viral infection(s), and these infections may contribute to the severity of signs and symptoms found in these patients.