The latest worldwide prevalence rate projects that over 65 million patients suffer from myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS), an illness with known effects on the functioning of the immune and nervous systems. We performed an extensive metabolomics analysis on the plasma of 52 female subjects, equally sampled between controls and ME/CFS patients, which delivered data for about 1750 blood compounds spanning 20 super-pathways, subdivided into 113 sub-pathways. Statistical analysis combined with pathway enrichment analysis points to a few disrupted metabolic pathways containing many unexplored compounds. The most intriguing finding concerns acyl cholines, belonging to the fatty acid metabolism sub-pathway of lipids, for which all compounds are consistently reduced in two distinct ME/CFS patient cohorts. We compiled the extremely limited knowledge about these compounds and regard them as promising in the quest to explain many of the ME/CFS symptoms. Another class of lipids with far-reaching activity on virtually all organ systems are steroids; androgenic, progestin, and corticosteroids are broadly reduced in our patient cohort. We also report on lower dipeptides and elevated sphingolipids abundance in patients compared to controls. Disturbances in the metabolism of many of these molecules can be linked to the profound organ system symptoms endured by ME/CFS patients.
Keywords: ME/CFS; acyl cholines; dipeptides; lipids; metabolomics; steroids.