Fatigue that persists for 6 months or more is termed chronic fatigue. Chronic fatigue (CF) in combination with a minimum of 4 of 8 symptoms and the absence of diseases that could explain these symptoms, constitute the case definition for chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME). Inflammation, immune system activation, autonomic dysfunction, impaired functioning in the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, and neuroendocrine dysregulation have all been suggested as root causes of fatigue. The identification of objective markers consistently associated with CFS/ME is an important goal in relation to diagnosis and treatment, as the current case definitions are based entirely on physical signs and symptoms. This review is focused on the recent literature related to biomarkers for fatigue associated with CFS/ME and, for comparison, those associated with other diseases. These markers are distributed across several of the body's core regulatory systems. A complex construct of symptoms emerges from alterations and/or dysfunctions in the nervous, endocrine and immune systems. We propose that new insight will depend on our ability to develop and deploy an integrative profiling of CFS/ME pathogenesis at the molecular level. Until such a molecular signature is obtained efforts to develop effective treatments will continue to be severely limited.
Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.