“Not only do [these findings] show an underlying, detectable defect in the behavior of the children's immune cells, they also confirm our previous findings in adults." - Dr. Gwen Kennedy, research team leader
"The medical profession must now take the consequences of ME in children seriously, and research into prevention and treatment must be given a high priority." - Jane Colby, Young ME Sufferers (Tymes) Trust
University of Dundee scientists investigating Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME) in children(1) have found abnormalities in blood cells involved in inflammation. Indicative of a possible viral infection, they are similar to those previously identified in adults with the condition.
Samples taken from youngsters contained higher than normal levels of free radicals, molecules which can damage cells, tissues and organs via a process called oxidative stress. Also, a much greater number of neutrophils, the most common type of white blood cells, were found to be at the end of their life cycle. The high turnover of neutrophils indicates the body's need to fight infection.
Increased oxidative stress can arise from a variety of factors, such as a lack of antioxidants, like vitamins C and E, in the diet, but can also occur when white blood cells are chronically stimulated, for instance, by an infection. The combination of this stress and the quantity of white blood cells points to ongoing inflammation which may be a response to an infection.
Published in Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, the findings could be linked to a risk of cardiovascular problems like heart disease and stroke, though researchers highlight the need for more studies to build upon their work. (See the abstract of “Biochemical and Vascular Aspects of Pediatric Chronic Fatigue Syndrome" HERE.]
Dr Gwen Kennedy, at the University of Dundee, who led the team said: "These results are of great importance; not only do they show an underlying, detectable defect in the behavior of the children's immune cells, they also confirm our previous findings in adults."
Dr Neil Abbot, of ME Research UK, one of the charities which funded the research said: "Although the cause of ME is unknown, more than half of all patients say their illness started with an infection. It is therefore fascinating to discover evidence of a persistent or reactivating viral infection. The study undoubtedly adds greater scientific weight to the existence of a condition which, sadly, many still fail to acknowledge in spite of its severity."
Jane Colby, of the Young ME Sufferers (Tymes Trust), another of the funders said: "The medical profession must now take the consequences of ME in children seriously, and research into prevention and treatment must be given a high priority. Children with ME are too often treated with scepticism by the healthcare system, and even denied their right to suitable education and other support."
Sources: University of Dundee, Scotland, news release Sep 7, 2010; first reported Sep 6 by the BBC World News radio broadcast in the US, and online Sep 7 (see the article “Study shows ME/CFS ‘virus link’ found in children” by BBC Scotland Health Correspondent Eleanor Bradford) and see the Sep 7 BBC TV News video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pXNmrVP7Gi4.
1. 25 children with ME and 23 healthy children were recruited from across the UK to take part in the research; the latter were matched for age, gender and state of puberty in order to draw as valid a comparison as possible. The initial diagnosis of CFS/ME had been made by the children's local consultant or pediatrician or general practitioner and was confirmed by the searchers from clinical examination. …[physical and mental exhaustion following normal activities (quite different from what is normally experienced by healthy people) and symptoms include muscle pain, sore throat, tender lymph nodes, multi-joint pain, headaches etc.] The study was funded by ME Research UK and The Young ME Sufferers (Tymes) Trust.