Background: Acute infectious diseases are typically accompanied by non-specific symptoms including fever, malaise, irritability and somnolence that usually resolve on recovery. However, in some individuals these symptoms persist in what is commonly termed post-infective fatigue. The objective of this pilot study was to determine the gene expression correlates of post-infective fatigue following acute Epstein Barr virus (EBV) infection.
Methods: We followed 5 people with acute mononucleosis who developed post-infective fatigue of more than 6 months duration and 5 HLA-matched control subjects who recovered within 3 months. Subjects had peripheral blood mononuclear cell (PBMC) samples collected at varying time points including at diagnosis, then every 2 weeks for 3 months, then every 3 months for a year. Total RNA was extracted from the PBMC samples and hybridized to microarrays spotted with 3,800 oligonucleotides.
Results: Those who developed post-infective fatigue had gene expression profiles indicative of an altered host response during acute mononucleosis compared to those who recovered uneventfully. Several genes including ISG20 (interferon stimulated gene), DNAJB2 (DnaJ [Hsp40] homolog and CD99), CDK8 (cyclin-dependent kinase 8), E2F2 (E2F transcription factor 2), CDK8 (cyclin-dependent kinase 8), and ACTN2 (actinin, alpha 2), known to be regulated during EBV infection, were differentially expressed in post-infective fatigue cases. Several of the differentially expressed genes affect mitochondrial functions including fatty acid metabolism and the cell cycle.
Conclusion: These preliminary data provide insights into alterations in gene transcripts associated with the varied clinical outcomes from acute infectious mononucleosis.