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Review Article:

Possible role for early-life immune insult including developmental immunotoxicity in chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) or myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME).

Journal: Toxicology. 2008 Feb 8 [Epub ahead of print]

Authors: Dietert RR, Dietert JM.

Affiliation: Department of Microbiology and Immunology, C5-135 VMC, College of Veterinary Medicine, North Tower Road, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA.

NLM Citation: PMID: 18336982

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) in some countries, is a debilitating disease with a constellation of multi-system dysfunctions primarily involving the neurological, endocrine and immune systems. While substantial information is available concerning the complex dysfunction-associated symptoms of CFS, environmental origins of the disease have yet to be determined.

Part of the dilemma in identifying the cause(s) has been the focus on biomarkers (hormones, neurotransmitters, cytokines, infectious agents) that are contemporary with later-life CFS episodes. Yet, recent investigations on the origins of environmental diseases of the neurological, endocrine, reproductive, respiratory and immune systems suggest that early life toxicologic and other insults are pivotal in producing later-life onset of symptoms.

As with autism and childhood asthma, CFS can also occur in children where the causes are certainly early-life events. Immune dysfunction is recognized as part of the CFS phenotype but has received comparatively less attention than aberrant neurological or endocrine function. However, recent research results suggest that early life immune insults (ELII) including developmental immunotoxicity (DIT), which is induced by xenobiotics, may offer an important clue to the origin(s) of CFS.

The developing immune system is a sensitive and novel target for environmental insult (xenobiotic, infectious agents, stress) with major ramifications for postnatal health risks. Additionally, many prenatal and early postnatal neurological lesions associated with postnatal neurobehavioral diseases are now recognized as linked to prenatal immune insult and inflammatory dysregulation. This review considers the potential role of ELII including DIT as an early-life component of later-life CFS.

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