Explaining ME/CFS as immune system’s ‘Pavlov’ response to persistent EBV

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Can persistent Epstein-Barr virus infection induce chronic fatigue syndrome as a Pavlov reflex of the immune response?
– Source: Journal of Biological Dynamics, Jan 2012 (final version of record online Jul 16, 2012)

By Elena Agliari, et al.

[Note: To view the free full text of this article proposing a unifying theory of the etiology of chronic fatigue syndrome / myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME/CFS), CLICK HERE. The article includes some intriguing, plain-language background sections and some very complex, formula-heavy statistical sections. The ‘Pavlov’ response refers to how physiological responses can become conditioned to occur without the initial stimulus – e.g., Pavlov’s dogs salivating at the sound of a bell that once accompanied feeding time.]

Chronic fatigue syndrome is a protracted illness condition (lasting even years) appearing with strong flu symptoms and systemic defiances by the immune system.

• Here, by means of statistical mechanics techniques, we study the most widely accepted picture for its genesis, namely a persistent acute mononucleosis infection,

• And we show how such infection may drive the immune system towards an out-of-equilibrium metastable state displaying chronic activation of both humoral and cellular responses (a state of full inflammation without a direct ’causes-effect’ reason).

By exploiting a bridge with a neural scenario, we mirror killer lymphocytes T(K) and B cells to neurons and helper lymphocytes

[Formula: see text] and [Formula: see text] to synapses, hence showing that the immune system may experience the Pavlov conditional reflex phenomenon:

• If the exposition to a stimulus (Epstein-Barr virus antigens) lasts for too long,

• Strong internal correlations among B cells, killer lymphocyte T(K) and T(H) may develop

• Ultimately resulting in a persistent activation even though the stimulus itself is removed.

These outcomes are corroborated by several experimental findings.

Source: Journal of Biological Dynamics, Mar 2012;6(2):740-62 – full text of record online Jul 16, 2012. PMID:22873615, by Agliari E, Barra A, Vidal KG, Guerra F. Dipartimento di Fisica, Università degli Studi di Parma, Parma, Italy. [Email: elena.agliari@fis.unipr.it]