ME/CFS and MS Show Similar Neuroimmune Characteristics

Editor's Comment: For decades, researchers have noted not just an overlap of symptoms between MS and ME/CFS – e.g. disabling fatigue, exercise intolerance, and cognitive impairment, among others – but similiarities in brain scans (both patients with MS and ME/CFS show bright spots on MRIs). The major difference between the two illnesses is obvious demyelination, as well as the progressive nature of MS. Nonetheless, the authors conclude that "the strong similarities between both disorders in terms of phenomenological, neurobehavior and neuroimmune characteristics further underscore that ME/CFS belongs to the spectrum of neuroimmune disorders. In addition, the data show that the comorbidity between both disorders and the high prevalence of ME/CFS symptoms in patients with MS may be explained by neuroimmune mechanisms."

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Myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome and encephalomyelitis disseminata/multiple sclerosis show remarkable levels of similarity in phenomenology and neuroimmune characteristics.

Abstract

BACKGROUND: 'Encephalomyelitis disseminata' (multiple sclerosis) and myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) are both classified as diseases of the central nervous system by the World Health Organization. This review aims to compare the phenomenological and neuroimmune characteristics of MS with those of ME/CFS.

DISCUSSION: There are remarkable phenomenological and neuroimmune overlaps between both disorders. Patients with ME/CFS and MS both experience severe levels of disabling fatigue and a worsening of symptoms following exercise and resort to energy conservation strategies in an attempt to meet the energy demands of day-to-day living. Debilitating autonomic symptoms, diminished cardiac responses to exercise, orthostatic intolerance and postural hypotension are experienced by patients with both illnesses.

Both disorders show a relapsing-remitting or progressive course, while infections and psychosocial stress play a large part in worsening of fatigue symptoms. Activated immunoinflammatory, oxidative and nitrosative (O+NS) pathways and autoimmunity occur in both illnesses. The consequences of O+NS damage to self-epitopes is evidenced by the almost bewildering and almost identical array of autoantibodies formed against damaged epitopes seen in both illnesses.

Mitochondrial dysfunctions, including lowered levels of ATP, decreased phosphocreatine synthesis and impaired oxidative phosphorylation, are heavily involved in the pathophysiology of both MS and ME/CFS. The findings produced by neuroimaging techniques are quite similar in both illnesses and show decreased cerebral blood flow, atrophy, gray matter reduction, white matter hyperintensities, increased cerebral lactate and choline signaling and lowered acetyl-aspartate levels.

SUMMARY: This review shows that there are neuroimmune similarities between MS and ME/CFS. This further substantiates the view that ME/CFS is a neuroimmune illness and that patients with MS are immunologically primed to develop symptoms of ME/CFS.

SourceBMC Med. 2013 Sep 17;11:205. doi: 10.1186/1741-7015-11-205. Morris G, Maes M.

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