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Chronic fatigue developments

6th March 2006

Scientists suggest that some cases of chronic fatigue syndrome could be due to brain "injuries" caused during the early stages of glandular fever. Writing in the Journal of Infectious Diseases a University of New South Wales team suggest those who remained ill after the virus had gone had suffered a "hit-and-run injury" to the brain. The team has followed people with Epstein-Barr virus since 1999.

Epstein-Barr virus causes glandular fever, sometimes known as "the kissing disease". Its symptoms include fever, sore throat, tiredness, and swollen lymph glands. Most patients recover within a few weeks but one in 10 young people will suffer prolonged symptoms, marked by fatigue.
 
The researchers followed the course of illness among 39 people diagnosed with acute glandular fever. Eight patients developed a "post-infective fatigue syndrome" lasting six months or longer, while the remaining 31 recovered quickly. The scientists then looked for signs of the Epstein-Barr virus in blood samples collected from each individual over 12 months.

The findings reveal that neither the virus nor an abnormal immune response explain the post-infective fatigue syndrome. The team suspect it's more like a hit-and-run injury to the brain. They believe that the parts of the brain that control perception of fatigue and pain get damaged during the acute infection phase of glandular fever.

The researchers now plan to test their "brain injury" hypothesis by doing neurological tests on the study participants.

Chris Clark, of Action for ME, said that they would like to know more about this theory, noting that it could be an important part of the jigsaw, but probably isn't the entire answer.  

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