Chronic fatigue syndrome: clinical condition associated with immune activation

Lancet. 1991 Sep 21;338(8769):707-12. doi: 10.1016/0140-6736(91)91440-6.


There is much conflicting immunological and viral data about the causes of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS); some findings support the notion that CFS may be due to one or more immune disorders that have resulted from exposure to an infectious agent. In the present study, flow cytometry and several different monoclonal antibodies recognising T, B, and natural killer (NK) cell populations as well as activation and cell adhesion antigens were used to study 147 individuals with CFS. Compared with healthy controls, a reduced CD8 suppressor cell population and increased activation markers (CD38, HLA-DR) on CD8 cells were found. The differences were significant (p = 0.01) in patient with major symptoms of the disease. These immunological indices were not observed in 80 healthy individuals, in 22 contacts of CFS patients, or in 43 patients with other diseases. No correlation of these findings in CFS patients with any known human viruses could be detected by serology. The findings suggest that immune activation is associated with many cases of CFS.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Antibodies, Viral / blood*
  • Antigens, CD / blood
  • Cohort Studies
  • Fatigue Syndrome, Chronic / immunology*
  • Female
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Antibodies, Viral
  • Antigens, CD