Not in the mind but in the cell: increased production of cyclo-oxygenase-2 and inducible NO synthase in chronic fatigue syndrome.

: Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a medically unexplained disorder, characterized by profound fatigue, infectious, rheumatological and neuropsychiatric symptoms. There is, however, some evidence that CFS is accompanied by signs of increased oxidative stress and inflammation in the peripheral blood. This paper examines the role of the inducible enzymes cyclo-oxygenase (COX-2) and inducible NO synthase (iNOS) in the pathophysiology of CFS. Toward this end we examined the production of COX-2 and iNOS by peripheral blood lymphocytes (PBMC) in 18 CFS patients and 18 normal volunteers and examined the relationships between those inflammatory markers and the severity of illness as measured by means of the FibroFatigue scale and the production of the transcription factor nuclear factor kappa beta (NFkappabeta). We found that the production of COX-2 and iNOS was significantly higher in CFS patients than in normal controls. There were significant and positive intercorrelations between COX-2, iNOS and NFkappabeta and between COX-2 and iNOS, on the one hand, and the severity of illness, on the other. The production of COX-2 and iNOS by PBMCs was significantly related to aches and pain, muscular tension, fatigue, concentration difficulties, failing memory, sadness and a subjective experience of infection. The results suggest that a) an intracellular inflammatory response in the white blood cells plays an important role in the pathophysiology of CFS; b) the inflammatory response in CFS is driven by the transcription factor NFkappabeta; c) symptoms, such as fatigue, pain, cognitive defects and the subjective feeling of infection, indicates the presence of a genuine inflammatory response in CFS patients; and d) CFS patients may be treated with substances that inhibit the production of COX-2 and iNOS.

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