Perturbations in immune processes are a hallmark of a number of autoimmune and inflammatory disorders. Chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME) is an inflammatory disorder with possible autoimmune correlates, characterized by reduced NK cell activity, elevations in regulatory T cells (Tregs) and dysregulation in cytokine levels. The purpose of this article is to examine innate and adaptive immune cell phenotypes and functional characteristics that have not been previously examined in CFS/ME patients. Thirty patients with CFS/ME and 25 non-fatigued controls were recruited for this study. Whole blood samples were collected from all participants for the assessment of cell phenotypes, functional properties, receptors, adhesion molecules, antigens and intracellular proteins using flow cytometric protocols. The cells investigated included NK cells, dendritic cells, neutrophils, B cells, T cells, γδT cells and Tregs. Significant changes were observed in B-cell subsets, Tregs, CD4(+)CD73(+)CD39(+) T cells, cytotoxic activity, granzyme B, neutrophil antigens, TNF-α and IFN-γ in the CFS/ME patients in comparison with the non-fatigued controls. Alterations in B cells, Tregs, NK cells and neutrophils suggest significant impairments in immune regulation in CFS/ME and these may have similarities to a number of autoimmune disorders.
Keywords: B cells; NK cells; degranulation; dendritic cells; γδT cells.