Ask the Doctor: Is ME/CFS an Autoimmune Disease?

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This week’s question & answer is from the “Ask the Doctor” page of the Hunter-Hopkins Center site (DrLapp.com). It is reproduced with kind permission of clinic director Charles W. Lapp, MD.

Is CFS/ME/FM An Immune Disorder?
Posted June 14, 2012 by Dr. Lapp

Q: …“I often get conflicting answers to this question. Is CFS/ME/FM an autoimmune disease?”

A:  …“I don’t mean to conflict you further but the answer is “yes, and no.” Autoimmunity is certainly part of the CFS/ME/FM conundrum, but the disorder also affects the central nervous system, endocrine system, the muscles, and other areas.

Some of the first abnormalities noted in PWCs [people with CFS] were immunological in origin, namely an increased incidence of autoantibodies, low immunoglobulins, poor NK cell activity, activated T-cells (CD8/CD38), up-regulation of the 2’5’ synthetase system, and excess cytokine production. (References: Landay; Barker; Caligiuri; Klimas; Herberman;  Suhadolnik; De Meirleir; Patarca; Moss; Kerr.)

As a result the majority of PWCs have anti-nuclear antibodies, and antibodies directed against thyroid and parietal cells are not uncommon.

This led to the 1992 grassroots movement to rename CFS to CFIDS, or Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction Syndrome.

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