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Evidence for a Heritable Predisposition to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome


Evidence for a Heritable Predisposition to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Frederick Albright et al. BMC Neurol.


Background: Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) came to attention in the 1980s, but initial investigations did not find organic causes. Now decades later, the etiology of CFS has yet to be understood, and the role of genetic predisposition in CFS remains controversial. Recent reports of CFS association with the retrovirus xenotropic murine leukemic virus-related virus (XMRV) or other murine leukemia related retroviruses (MLV) might also suggest underlying genetic implications within the host immune system.

Methods: We present analyses of familial clustering of CFS in a computerized genealogical resource linking multiple generations of genealogy data with medical diagnosis data of a large Utah health care system. We compare pair-wise relatedness among cases to expected relatedness in the Utah population, and we estimate risk for CFS for first, second, and third degree relatives of CFS cases.

Results: We observed significant excess relatedness of CFS cases compared to that expected in this population. Significant excess relatedness was observed for both close (p <0.001) and distant relationships (p = 0.010). We also observed significant excess CFS relative risk among first (2.70, 95% CI: 1.56-4.66), second (2.34, 95% CI: 1.31-4.19), and third degree relatives (1.93, 95% CI: 1.21-3.07).

Conclusions: These analyses provide strong support for a heritable contribution to predisposition to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. A population of high-risk CFS pedigrees has been identified, the study of which may provide additional understanding.


Figure 1
Figure 1
Contribution to the GIF statistic, measuring average relatedness. Contribution to the GIF statistic (y-axis) by genetic relationship (genetic distance, x axis) between all pairs of related CFS cases compared to all pairs of related controls. Genetic distance 1 = parent/offspring, 2-siblings or grandparent/grandchild, 3 = avunculars, and so forth).

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