Background: Several infections trigger postinfective fatigue syndromes, which share key illness characteristics with each other and with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). Previous cross-sectional case-control studies of CFS have suggested that unique gene expression signatures are evident in peripheral blood samples.
Methods: Peripheral blood transcriptomes in samples collected longitudinally, in 18 subjects with a fatigue syndrome lasting ≥ 6 months after acute infection due to Epstein-Barr virus, Ross River virus, or Coxiella burnetii (Q fever), and 18 matched control subjects who had recovered promptly, were studied by microarray (n = 127) and confirmatory quantitative polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Gene expression patterns associated with CFS were sought by univariate statistics and regression modeling.
Results: There were 23 genes with modest differential expression (0.6-2.3-fold change) in within-subject comparisons of early, symptomatic time points with late, recovered time points. There were modest differences found in 63 genes, either in cross-sectional comparison of cases and controls at 6 months after infection onset or in the regression model. There were 223 genes significantly correlated with individual symptom domains. Quantitative PCR confirmed 33 (73%) of 45 genes-none were consistent across cohorts.
Conclusions: Although the illness characteristics of patients with postinfective fatigue syndromes have more similarities than differences, no reliable peripheral blood gene expression correlate is evident.