Cytokine signature associated with disease severity in chronic fatigue syndrome patients

By J. G. Montoya et al.


Although some signs of inflammation have been reported previously in patients with myalgic encephalomyelitis or chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS), the data are limited and contradictory. High-throughput methods now allow us to interrogate the human immune system for multiple markers of inflammation at a scale that was not previously possible.

To determine whether a signature of serum cytokines could be associated with ME/CFS and correlated with disease severity and fatigue duration, cytokines of 192 ME/CFS patients and 392 healthy controls were measured using a 51-multiplex array on a Luminex system. Each cytokine's preprocessed data were regressed on ME/CFS severity plus covariates for age, sex, race, and an assay property of newly discovered importance: nonspecific binding.

On average, TGF-beta was elevated (P = 0.0052) and resistin was lower (P = 0.0052) in patients compared with controls. Seventeen cytokines had a statistically significant upward linear trend that correlated with ME/CFS severity: CCL11 (Eotaxin-1), CXCL1 (GROalpha), CXCL10 (IP-10), IFN-gamma, IL-4, IL-5, IL-7, IL-12p70, IL-13, IL-17F, leptin, G-CSF, GM-CSF, LIF, NGF, SCF, and TGF-alpha. Of the 17 cytokines that correlated with severity, 13 are proinflammatory, likely contributing to many of the symptoms experienced by patients and establishing a strong immune system component of the disease. Only CXCL9 (MIG) inversely correlated with fatigue duration.

Source: Montoya JG, Holmes TH, Anderson JN, Maecker HT, Rosenberg-Hasson Y, Valencia IJ, Chu L, Younger JW, Tato CM, Davis MM. Cytokine signature associated with disease severity in chronic fatigue syndrome patients. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2017 Jul 31. pii: 201710519. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1710519114. [Epub ahead of print]

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