Background: Human herpesvirus-6 (HHV-6), Epstein-Barr virus and parvovirus B19 have been suggested as etiological agents of chronic fatigue syndrome but none of these viruses is consistently detected in all patients. However, active viral infections may be localized in specific tissues, and, therefore, are not easily detectable. The aim of this study was to investigate the presence of HHV-6, HHV-7, EBV and parvovirus B19 in the gastro-intestinal tract of CFS patients.
Patients and methods: Using real-time PCR, viral DNA loads were quantified in gastro-intestinal biopsies of 48 CFS patients and 35 controls.
Results: High loads of HHV-7 DNA were detected in most CFS and control biopsies. EBV and HHV-6 were detected in 15-30% of all biopsies. Parvovirus B19 DNA was detected in 40% of the patients versus less than 15% of the controls.
Conclusion: Parvovirus B19 may be involved in the pathogenesis of CFS, at least for a subset of patients. The gastro-intestinal tract appears as an important reservoir of infection for several potentially pathogenic viruses.