In a recent study published last month in Microbiome, Cornell researchers have identified biomarkers of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) in gut bacteria as well as inflammatory microbial agents in the blood.
This is very interesting but should come as no surprise as many of these individuals commonly has gastrointestinal disturbances. The gut microbiome has been associated with many chronic health conditions, from autoimmune disease to neurological disorders.
Doctors have often been puzzled by chronic fatigue syndrome. This is a condition with no known triggers and its diagnosis typically requires extensive testing. Patients often complain of fatigue, muscle and/or joint pain, sore throat, headaches, sleep disturbances, post-exertional malaise, and gastrointestinal symptoms.
In this study, the research team was able to correctly diagnose myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) in 83% of patients using stool samples along with blood work. The study consisted of 48 individuals diagnosed with ME/CFS and 39 healthy controls. Overall, the diversity of gut bacteria was significantly reduced. In addition, there were fewer bacterial species known to have anti-inflammatory properties in ME/CFS patients, a similar observation seen in patients with inflammatory bowel disease.
Furthermore, researchers identified specific markers of inflammation in the blood, which were likely due to intestinal permeability. Bacteria in the blood will trigger an immune response which can exacerbate symptoms and, thus, increase the severity of the condition.
The question we must ask is this: Is the altered gut microbiome a cause or a result of the disease? This data demonstrates that the gut microbiome in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome is not normal, which further confirms that CFS is not of psychological origin.
When it comes to any gastrointestinal dysfunction, it is important to rule out viruses, fungi, and other pathogenic bacteria in the gut that may be causing or contributing to a patient’s symptoms. Healthcare providers should consider a stool analysis for these individuals using molecular/PCR based techniques.
By Michael Jurgelewicz, DC, DACBN, DCBCN
Source: Ludovic Giloteaux, Julia K. Goodrich, William A. Walters, Susan M. Levine, Ruth E. Ley, Maureen R. Hanson. Reduced diversity and altered composition of the gut microbiome in individuals with myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome. Microbiome, 2016; 4 (1) DOI: 10.1186/s40168-016-0171-4