Background: Human herpesvirus 6 (HHV-6) and 7 (HHV-7) have been suggested as possible triggering agents for chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).
Objectives: To determine the possible association of HHV-6 and HHV-7 infections with CFS.
Study design: The prevalence of latent/persistent and active viral infections by nPCR, characteristic of HHV-6 variants using restriction endonuclease analysis and changes of lymphocyte subsets in peripheral blood by laser flow-cytometry in 17 CFS patients was examined. In addition, 12 patients with unexplained chronic fatigue and 20 blood donors (BD) were studied.
Results: No difference in prevalence of latent/persistent single viral infections between the patients and BD was found but dual infection rate was significantly higher in CFS patients. Active HHV-6 and dual (HHV-6 + HHV-7) infections were detected in CFS patients only and frequency of HHV-7 reactivation was also significantly higher in these patients. HHV-6 variant B was predominant in CFS patients (12/13). The changes of immunological parameters in CFS patients with active dual infection were characterized by significant decrease of CD3+ and CD4+ T cells, significant increase of CD95+ cells and decrease of CD4+/CD8+ ratio.
Conclusions: HHV-6 and HHV-7 may be involved in the pathogenesis of CFS and reactivation of both viruses may provoke changes in the phenotype of circulating lymphocytes.