Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a clinical entity characterized by severe fatigue lasting more than 6 months and other well-defined symptoms.
Even though in most CFS cases the etiology is still unknown, sometimes the mode of presentation of the illness implicates the exposure to chemical and/or food toxins as precipitating factors: ciguatera poisoning, sick building syndrome, Gulf War syndrome, exposure to organochlorine pesticides, etc.
In the National Reference Center for CFS Study at the Department of Infectious Diseases of G. D'Annunzio University (Chieti) we examined five patients (three females and two males, mean age: 37.5 years) who developed the clinical features of CFS several months after the exposure to environmental toxic factors: ciguatera poisoning in two cases, and exposure to solvents in the other three cases.
These patients were compared and contrasted with two sex- and age-matched subgroups of CFS patients without any history of exposure to toxins: the first subgroup consisted of patients with CFS onset following an EBV infection (post-infectious CFS), and the second of patients with a concurrent diagnosis of major depression.
All subjects were investigated by clinical examination, neurophysiological and immunologic studies, and neuroendocrine tests.
Patients exposed to toxic factors had disturbances of hypothalamic function similar to those in controls and, above all, showed more severe dysfunction of the immune system with an abnormal CD4/CD8 ratio, and in three of such cases with decreased levels of NK cells (CD56+).
These findings may help in understanding the pathogenetic mechanisms involved in CFS.
Source: The Science of the Total Environment. 2001 Apr 10;270(1-3):27-31. PMID: 11327394, by Racciatti D, Vecchiet J, Ceccomancini A, Ricci F, Pizzigallo E. Department of Infectious Diseases, G. D'Annunzio University, Chieti Scalo, Italy. [E-mail: