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Keywords:

  • Mycoplasma fermentans;
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome;
  • Quantitative PCR assay

Abstract

Mycoplasma fermentans and other Mycoplasma species are colonizers of human mucosal surfaces and may be associated with human immunodeficiency virus infection. While many infectious agents have been described in different percentages of patients with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), little is known about the prevalence of mycoplasmas and especially M. fermentans in CFS patients. A polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-based assay was used to detect Mycoplasma genus and M. fermentans genomes in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) of CFS patients. Blood was collected from 100 patients with CFS and 50 control subjects. The amplified products of 717 bp of Mycoplasma genus, and 206 bp of M. fermentans were detected in DNA purified from blood samples in 52% and 34% of CFS samples, respectively. In contrast, these genomes were found in only 14% and 8% of healthy control subjects respectively (P<0.0001). All samples were confirmed by Southern blot with a specific probe based on internal sequences of the expected amplification product. Several samples, which were positive for Mycoplasma genus, were negative for M. fermentans indicating that other Mycoplasma species are involved. A quantitative PCR was developed to determine the number of M. fermentans genome copies present in 1 μg of DNA for controls and CFS patients. Mycoplasma copy numbers ranging from 130 to 880 and from 264 to 2400 were detected in controls and CFS positive subjects, respectively. An enzyme immunoassay was applied for the detection of antibodies against p29 surface lipoprotein of M. fermentans to determine the relationship between M. fermentans genome copy numbers and antibody levels. Individuals with high genome copy numbers exhibited higher IgG and IgM antibodies against M. fermentans specific peptides. Isolation of this organism by culture from clinical specimens is needed in order to demonstrate specificity of signal detected by PCR in this study.