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Keywords:

  • fatigue;
  • depression;
  • immunity;
  • anergy

SUMMARY

The chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is characterized by severe persistent fatigue and neuropsychiatric symptoms. It has been proposed that the abnormalities in cell-mediated immunity which have been documented in patients with CFS may be attributable to a clinical depression, prevalent in patients with this disorder. Cell-mediated immune status was evaluated in patients with carefully defined CFS and compared with that of matched subjects with major depression (non-melancholic, non-psychotic) as well as healthy control subjects. Patients with CFS demonstrated impaired lymphocyte responses to phytohaemagglutinin (PHA) stimulation, and reduced or absent delayed-type hypersensitivity (DTH) skin responses when compared either with subjects with major depression or with healthy control subjects (P < 0·05 for each analysis). Although depression is common in patients with CFS, the disturbances of cell-mediated immunity in this disorder differ in prevalence and magnitude from those associated with major depression. These observations strengthen the likelihood of a direct relationship between abnormal cell-mediated immunity and the etiology of CFS.