“A blackness descending over your eyes”
CNN – Chronic fatigue syndrome, a condition that causes extreme tiredness, could be triggered by an overactive immune system, a study has found.
UK researchers found that an exaggerated immune response can trigger long-lasting fatigue, suggesting this is how the condition — also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis or ME — begins.
The study, published Monday, is the first to shed some light into the immune system’s role in the development of the condition, a multisystem disorder about which very little is known, according to lead researcher Carmine Pariante, professor of biological psychiatry at King’s College London.
Limited insight to date has made treatment a challenge.
Pariante explained that in a lot of chronic fatigue cases, patients remember an infection, such as a very bad cold or other viral infection, in the early stages of developing the condition.
“We had this information for quite a long time but didn’t know what was going on in the body of these patients,” he said.
Around 250,000 people in the UK and 17 million people worldwide are affected by chronic fatigue, according to British charity Action on ME. An estimated 836,000 to 2.5 million Americans struggle with the syndrome, according to the CDC.
To try to find out more about it, the team modeled a possible route to the condition based on a treatment for chronic hepatitis C infections called interpheron alpha, because the treatment is known to induce persistent fatigue in some people.
Interpheron alpha affects the immune system in a similar way to a strong infection, the study explains.
Researchers measured fatigue and immune activity in 55 patients receiving hepatitis C treatment with interferon-alpha.
Patients were followed up before, during and after the hepatitis C therapy.
Of the participants, 18 patients — about a third — developed lasting fatigue, defined as fatigue lasting longer than six months after treatment. Read more.