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Keywords:

  • chronic fatigue syndrome;
  • cytokines;
  • immune activation;
  • Th1;
  • Th2 cytokines

SUMMARY

The aetiology of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is not known. However, it has been suggested that CFS may be associated with underlying immune activation resulting in a Th2-type response. We measured intracellular production of interferon (IFN)-γ and interleukin (IL)-2; type 1 cytokines), IL-4 (type 2) and IL-10 (regulatory) by both polyclonally stimulated and non-stimulated CD4 and CD8 lymphocytes from patients with CFS and control subjects by flow cytometry. After polyclonal activation we found evidence of a significant bias towards Th2- and Tc2-type immune responses in CFS compared to controls. In contrast, levels of IFN-γ, IL-2 and IL-10-producing cells were similar in both study groups. Non-stimulated cultures revealed significantly higher levels of T cells producing IFN-γ or IL-4 in CFS patients. Concluding, we show evidence for an effector memory cell bias towards type 2 responsiveness in patients with CFS, as well as ongoing type 0 immune activation in unstimulated cultures of peripheral blood cells.