Clinical improvement in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is not associated with lymphocyte subsets of function or activation

The relationship between markers of immune function and chronic
fatigue syndrome (CFS) is controversial. To examine the
relationship directly, 43 subjects with CFS [Oxford criteria,
illness mean duration 4 years] entering a randomized
controlled trial of a nonpharmacological treatment for CFS
[i.e., cognitive behavioral therapy vs. relaxation therapy, 12
weekly sessions lasting 4 – 6 months] gave samples for
immunological analysis before and after treatment. Percentage
levels of total CD3+ T cells, CD4 T cells, CD8 T cells, and
activated subsets did not differ between CFS subjects and
controls. Naive (CD45RA+ RO-) and memory (CD45RA- RO+) T
cells did not differ between subjects and controls. Natural
killer cells (CD16+/CD56+/CD3-) were significantly increased
in CFS patients compared to controls, as was the percentage
of CD11b+ CD8 cells. There were no correlations between any
immune variable and measures of clinical status, with the
exception of a weak correlation between total CD4 T cells and
fatigue. There was a positive correlation between memory CD4
and CD8 T cells and depression scores and a negative
correlation between naive CD4 T cells and depression. No
immune measures changed during the course of the study, and
there was no link between clinical improvement as a result of
the treatment program and immune status. Immune measures did
not predict response or lack of response to treatment. In
conclusion, we have been unable to replicate previous
findings of immune activation in CFS and unable to find any
important associations between clinical status, treatment
response, and immunological status.

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