Chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis: an update

Int J Immunopathol Pharmacol. 2010 Oct-Dec;23(4):981-9. doi: 10.1177/039463201002300402.


Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), also referred to as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME), is a disease of unknown origin. It is classified as Post Viral Fatigue Syndrome (PVFS) in the WHO International Classification of Diseases (ICD) and listed as sub-category at G93.3 under chapter G93, other disorders of the brain. ME/CFS is primarily an endemic disorder but occurs in both epidemic and sporadic forms. It affects all racial-ethnic groups and is seen in all socioeconomic strata. A diagnosis of CFS is a diagnosis of exclusion, meaning other medical conditions, including psychiatric disorders, must be first ruled out. CFS is diagnosed if there is no other explanation for the fatigue and if the other symptoms did not develop before the fatigue. The estimated worldwide prevalence of CFS is 0.4?1 percent. The disease predominantly affects young adults, with a peak age of onset of between 20 and 40 years, and women, with a female to male ratio of 6:1. Mean illness duration ranges from 3 to 9 years. The patho-physiological mechanism of CFS is unclear but the immunological pattern of CFS patients gleaned from various studies indicates that the immune system is chronically activated. Besides the role of environmental insults (xenobiotics, infectious agents, stress) the genetic features of patients are studied to evaluate their role in triggering the pathology. At present there are no specific pharmacological therapies to treat the disease but a variety of therapeutic approaches have been described as benefiting patients. Treatment programs are directed at relief of symptoms, with the goal of the patient regaining some level of preexisting function and well-being.

Publication types

  • Editorial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Fatigue Syndrome, Chronic / diagnosis
  • Fatigue Syndrome, Chronic / etiology*
  • Fatigue Syndrome, Chronic / genetics
  • Fatigue Syndrome, Chronic / therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male