As research on CFIDS steps up, many centers world-wide are reporting on various new studies. CFIDS-related advocacy activities are also becoming more international, with breaking news on support organizations’ activities and the effects they have on policy actions regarding the syndrome. The primary countries involved in international CFIDS efforts include Belgium, the United States, Canada, Great Britain, and Australia.
In Great Britain, the brain, immune, muscle and neuroendocrine systems of CFIDS patients have been studied recently with interesting results. D.C. Costa, et al., using single-photon emission tomography to look at blood flow to the brain, found that when compared to healthy, depressed, and epileptic control subjects, CFIDS patients had lower brain bloodflow overall. Of particular note is that the study showed a difference in bloodflow to the brainstem between CFIDS patients and depressed individuals.
Also in Britain, Simon Wessely has studied severe infection and its role as a risk factor for patients with CFIDS. The study revealed that indeed a severe infection can be a precursor to CFS, supporting an often-discussed theory that CFS very often appears after an individual reports a severe infection.
According to A.J. Cleare, et al., hormone responses in CFS patients are significantly different than those of depressed patients. Basing the study upon the important Demitrack and Straus, et al. cortisol research done at the United States National institutes of Health to 1991, 10 non-depressed CFS patients were compared to 15 patients suffering from major depression, and 25 healthy control subjects. The results were very different for each group, suggesting yet again an organic basis for CFS, and Pointing to a dysfunction of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. This axis involves the relationship between the brain and hormonal functions and is often being found as a possible problem for those with CFIDS.
A study by Burgess et al., studied lactate and heart rate response during exercise in 96 CFS patients. The results demonstrated an impairment in muscle energy metabolism that is not explained by physical inactivity. This study also looked closely at a subgroup of 43 patients for psychiatric disorder. The results suggest strongly that CFIDS is likely to be a distinct illness due to the fact that the type of energy metabolism found in patients appears unlike any other patient group.
By using a complex analysis of data on 565 CFIDS patients, researchers in Sydney, Australia, have suggested that there are two different sub-groups within Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Using clinical features as a measure, this study may help provide a foundation point for diagnostics and future research by further classifying CFS by type.
In the Netherlands, a highly-regarded study by C. Swanik indicated that the drug fluoxetine, commonly known as Prozac, is not effective in treating the symptoms of CFIDS when given in doses of 20 mgs. Prozac is sometimes prescribed to CFIDS patients to help with fatigue, cognitive impairment, and depression.
Several other news items of interest have appeared recently, including studies focusing on viruses and viral infections, among them retroviruses (HTLV-11-like), Spuma viruses, and Hepatitis C. Of particular note is the Borna Virus, which some researchers suggest plays a role in CFS, and is a virus common to animals, referred to by Dr. John Martin as the “stealth” virus. Martin, in a study with R. Tom Glass, isolated the virus from a patient with CFS and innoculated five cats with it. Within several weeks, all five cats showed evidence of an “acute neurological illness.”
A secret report by the Dutch Department of Defense leaked out in January. Discussing the so-called “Jungle disease” which appeared among Dutch military personnel on a mission for the UN in Cambodia between 1992 and 1993, the report revealed that these soldiers had many of the same kind of symptoms as those returning from Desert Storm, who were subsequently diagnosed with the controversial Gulf War Syndrome, or GWS. GWS and CFS are thought by some to be very similar, if not the same syndrome.
There had been discussion as to whether Jungle disease was “real or not,” but the report uses Gulf War Syndrome and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome as a measure of realistic illness. This is crucial to international awareness of all the illnesses, since the Dutch government is using both as a standard. More information can be found on the World Wide Web at URL: http://www.dds.nl/-me-net/meweb/ ned7.txt.
This article was prepared with assistance from Roger Burns, editor and publisher, of the CFS-NEWS and CFS Newswires from Ms. Beth Honeycutt of the CFIDS Association of America, and Mr. Marc Fluks of the Netherlands.