Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is a condition that can significantly affect the quality of life of a person. It is characterized by persistent chronic fatigue for no apparent reason lasting longer than six months. It is also accompanied by a host of other symptoms like sleep problems, muscle pains, and problems focusing and concentrating. In the United States, approximately 25% of people report that they are chronically fatigued but only about 0.5% of them actually meet criteria for a diagnosis Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.[1,2,3]
This condition was termed as a separate medical condition in the 1980s but has been long known to physicians and researchers since the 1970s even though with different names like febricula and effort syndrome. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is generally seen in females who are in their 20s and 30s but people of any age including children can develop Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.[1,2,3]
This condition has characteristics that are similar to other medical conditions like fibromyalgia and sleep disorders. What exactly causes Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is not clearly understood and research is still ongoing. However, a new study on this condition has come up with a theory which suggests that gut bacteria may have a significant role to play in the development of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.[1,2,3] This article highlights the potential link between Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and gut bacteria.
What Is The Link Between Chronic Fatigue Syndrome And Gut Bacteria?
As stated, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome was officially declared as a medical condition in the late 1980s and ever since then this condition has been a matter of interest for many researchers. This is mainly because it causes a person to feel fatigued without any apparent reason. This poses a big challenge for physicians in terms of diagnosis and treatment.
Some of other symptoms seen with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome include problems with cognition, sleep problems, muscle and joint pains. With regard to the cause, some researchers are of the opinion that viral infections may be one of the potential causes for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and others feel that stress may have a role to play. Hormonal and immune system dysfunction are also believed to be one of the potential causes for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
However, according to a new study that was published in the journal Microbiome suggests that gut bacteria may have a potential role to play in the development of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. The study is based on an observation that around 90% of people with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome also have irritable bowel syndrome pointing towards a potential link.
To establish a connection, researchers from center for Infection and Immunity at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health in New York analyzed the levels of gut bacteria in people with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome who did and did not have irritable bowel syndrome. This was the first study that actually studied about the role of gut bacteria in the development of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
The study explored the data from 50 patients and matched it with 50 healthy controls. The stool samples were looked at for presence of specific bacteria and also took blood samples to study the levels of immune molecules. When the species of bacteria were checked, they were found to be quite similar to those found in people with irritable bowel syndrome. There were other species of bacteria also seen depending on whether irritable bowel syndrome was present in conjunction with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
Increased levels of Alistipes and decreased levels of Faecalibacterium were considered to be the top biomarkers for Alistipes and decreased levels of Faecalibacterium with irritable bowel syndrome and increased levels of unclassified Bacteroides and decreased Bacteroides vulgatus were considered to be top biomarkers for increased levels of unclassified Bacteroides and decreased Bacteroides vulgatus without irritable bowel syndrome.
The researchers also suggested that participants with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome had a specific set of gut bacteria and metabolic disturbances that influenced the severity of the condition. There were no major differences in the immune markers but researchers believe this to be due to the number of participants in the study being low. Researchers suggest that by closely analyzing the fecal Microbiome they may be able to subtype people with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
By doing this, the researchers may be able to better understand the differences in manifestations of the disease. Researchers suggest that similar to irritable bowel syndrome, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome can also involve a communication between the gut and the brain channelled by bacteria, metabolites, and molecules that are influenced by them.
Researchers feel that by further investigating the link between gut bacteria and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome may shed light into the mystery behind the cause of this condition. The researchers believe that by identifying the specific bacteria involved they are a step closer towards an accurate diagnosis and better treatment options for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.