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Possible CFS Subgroups Identified: Test Results Indicative of Symptom Severity

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By Editor • www.ProHealth.com • July 10, 2006


Researchers at the University of Miami report “preliminary evidence” that measuring natural killer cell activity (NKCA) may support identification of a Chronic Fatigue Syndrome patient subgroup with more severe symptoms. Natural killer cells are immune system cells that destroy cells infected with a virus. When the researchers measured the NKCA levels in 41 CFS patients, they identified two subgroups: one with “normal” natural killer cell function levels and the other with abnormally “low” levels. Next they ran an exhaustive series of tests to determine if the differences in these immune cell function levels might correspond with differences in symptoms or symptom severity among CFS patients. The results indicated they did. The researchers compared the two groups using a dozen tests in all, including “objective” measures of cognitive functioning and “subjective” (self-reported and judgmental) measures of the severity of the patients’ fatigue, their cognitive impairment, and daytime “dysfunction.” Bottom line: On the subjective measures, the low-immune cell function group “reported less vigor, more daytime dysfunction, and more cognitive impairment,” compared with the normal-immune cell function group. Also, the low-immune cell function patients “performed less [well] on objective measures of cognitive functioning” relative to the normal-function group. The report on this research, “Impaired natural immunity, cognitive dysfunction, and physical symptoms in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome: Preliminary evidence for a subgroup,” by Scott D. Siegel, et al., was published in the June 2006 issue of the Journal of Psychosomatic Research. What this means for you:

1. These findings may point to an association between level of natural killer cell activity and severity of certain symptoms in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome patients.

2. The findings also raise issues such as whether immune function levels may change over time in CFS patients, and what factors might accompany or support such changes.

3. Numerous studies have addressed potential associations between natural killer cell activity and specific supplements and therapies, ranging from use of transfer factor and beta-carotene to laughter therapy (per Norman Cousins’ book Anatomy of an Illness). Ability to measure changes in NKCA level might support advances in therapeutics based on objective proof of a treatment’s efficacy. Watch for ProHealth’s updates on research in this area.



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