Chronic fatigue syndrome: an immunological perspective

Aust N Z J Psychiatry. 1998 Aug;32(4):523-7. doi: 10.3109/00048679809068326.


Objective: The aim of this study is to review research examining an immunological basis for chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) and to discuss how a disturbance in immunity could produce central nervous system (CNS)-mediated symptoms.

Method: Data relevant to the hypothesis that abnormal cytokine release plays a role in the pathogenesis of CFS are reviewed as well as recent evidence relating to potential mechanisms by which immune products may enter the brain and produce a disturbance in CNS processes.

Results: Examinations of cytokine levels in patients with CFS have produced inconclusive results. Recent evidence suggests that abnormal release of cytokines within the CNS may cause neural dysfunction by a variety of complex mechanisms.

Conclusion: Neuropsychiatric symptoms in patients with CFS may be more closely related to disordered cytokine production by glial cells within the CNS than to circulating cytokines. This possibility is discussed in the context of unresolved issues in the pathogenesis of CFS.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Central Nervous System / immunology*
  • Central Nervous System / physiopathology
  • Cytokines / cerebrospinal fluid*
  • Fatigue Syndrome, Chronic / cerebrospinal fluid
  • Fatigue Syndrome, Chronic / immunology*
  • Fatigue Syndrome, Chronic / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Infections / complications
  • Infections / immunology
  • Neuroglia / metabolism


  • Cytokines