BACKGROUND: There is evidence that Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS) is accompanied by gastro-intestinal symptoms; and IgA and IgM responses directed against lipopolysaccharides (LPS) of commensal bacteria, indicating bacterial translocation.
METHODS: This study was carried out to examine gastro-intestinal symptoms in subjects with ME/CFS versus those with chronic fatigue (CF). The two groups were dissected by dichotomizing those fulfilling and not fulfilling Fukuda's critera. In these groups, we examined the association between gastro-intestinal symptoms and the IgA and IgM responses directed against commensal bacteria.
RESULTS: Using cluster analysis performed on gastro-intestinal symptoms we delineated that the cluster analysis-generated diagnosis of abdominal discomfort syndrome (ADS) was significantly higher in subjects with ME/CFS (59.6%) than in those with CF (17.7%). The diagnosis of ADS was strongly associated with the diagnosis of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). There is evidence that ME/CFS consists of two subgroups, i.e. ME/CFS with and without ADS. Factor analysis showed four factors, i.e. 1) inflammation-hyperalgesia; 2) fatigue-malaise; 3) gastro-intestinal symptoms/ADS; and 4) neurocognitive symptoms. The IgA and IgM responses to LPS of commensal bacteria were significantly higher in ME/CFS patients with ADS than in those without ADS.
CONCLUSIONS: The findings show that ADS is a characteristic of a subset of patients with ME/CFS and that increased bacterial translocation (leaky gut) is associated with ADS symptoms. This study has defined a pathway phenotype, i.e bacterial translocation, that is related to ME/CFS and ADS/IBS and that may drive systemic inflammatory processes.