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Chronic fatigue may have genetic basis

Written by: Staff

NEW YORK Apr 21 (Reuters) Results from the largest study of chronic fatigue syndrome to date suggests that there are specific genes and gene activity patterns that make some people more prone to develop the disorder.

During a telebriefing yesterday, Dr William C Reeves, head of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) research at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, said: ''For the first time ever, we have documented that people with CFS have certain genes that are related to those parts of brain activity that mediate the stress response and that they have different gene activity levels.'' He explained the gene patterns seen in these people ''are related to their body's ability to adapt to challenges and stresses that occur throughout life, such as infections, injury, trauma or adverse events.'' By way of background, Reeves noted that CFS was first recognized in the late 1980s and ''we are still learning a lot about it.'' The condition is characterized by medically and psychiatrically unexplained symptoms that include fatigue, problems with sleeping, memory and concentration, and pain.

At least one million Americans have the debilitating disorder, and the costs to society are staggering. ''The average family in which someone suffers CFS forgoes about 20,000 dollars a year in lost earnings and wages,'' Reeves said.

The new findings, published in the medical journal Pharmacogenomics, are based on 227 CFS patients who underwent detailed clinical evaluations and extensive blood testing that included an assessment of genetics and the activity level of 20,000 genes. The objective was to identify factors that could have caused or be related to CFS.

Dr Julie Gerberding, director of the CDC, said the results of the study are ''a very important step forward in the field of chronic fatigue research.'' CFS is a controversial topic, with some doctors thinking it is a mental rather than physical condition. Gerberding noted that ''this is the first credible evidence of a biological basis for chronic fatigue syndrome. It reflects the remarkable confluence of a number of scientific advances really coming to bear on a problem of great importance to many people around the United States.'' Knowing there is a biologic basis for CFS will help researchers identify more effective ways to diagnose the illness and come up with more effective treatments including cognitive behavioral therapy, medications or a combination of both.


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