Deficient EBV-Specific B- and T-Cell Response in Patients with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) has long been discussed as a possible cause or trigger of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). In a subset of patients the disease starts with infectious mononucleosis and both enhanced and diminished EBV-specific antibody titers have been reported. In this study, we comprehensively analyzed the EBV-specific memory B- and T-cell response in patients with CFS. While we observed no difference in viral capsid antigen (VCA)-IgG antibodies, EBV nuclear antigen (EBNA)-IgG titers were low or absent in 10% of CFS patients. Remarkably, when analyzing the EBV-specific memory B-cell reservoir in vitro a diminished or absent number of EBNA-1- and VCA-antibody secreting cells was found in up to 76% of patients. Moreover, the ex vivo EBV-induced secretion of TNF-α and IFN-γ was significantly lower in patients. Multicolor flow cytometry revealed that the frequencies of EBNA-1-specific triple TNF-α/IFN-γ/IL-2 producing CD4+ and CD8+ T-cell subsets were significantly diminished whereas no difference could be detected for HCMV-specific T-cell responses. When comparing EBV load in blood immune cells, we found more frequently EBER-DNA but not BZLF-1 RNA in CFS patients compared to healthy controls suggesting more frequent latent replication. Taken together, our findings give evidence for a deficient EBV-specific B- and T-cell memory response in CFS patients and suggest an impaired ability to control early steps of EBV reactivation. In addition the diminished EBV response might be suitable to develop diagnostic marker in CFS.

Distinct plasma immune signatures in ME/CFS are present early in the course of illness

Myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) is an unexplained incapacitating illness that may affect up to 4 million people in the United States alone. There are no validated laboratory tests for diagnosis or management despite global efforts to find biomarkers of disease. We considered the possibility that inability to identify such biomarkers reflected variations in diagnostic criteria and laboratory methods as well as the timing of sample collection during the course of the illness. Accordingly, we leveraged two large, multicenter cohort studies of ME/CFS to assess the relationship of immune signatures with diagnosis, illness duration, and other clinical variables. Controls were frequency-matched on key variables known to affect immune status, including season of sampling and geographic site, in addition to age and sex. We report here distinct alterations in plasma immune signatures early in the course of ME/CFS relative to healthy controls that are not present in subjects with longer duration of illness . Analyses based on disease duration revealed that early ME/CFS cases had a prominent activation of both pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines as well as dissociation of intercytokine regulatory networks. We found a stronger correlation of cytokine alterations with illness duration than with measures of illness severity, suggesting that the immunopathology of ME/CFS is not static. These findings have critical implications for discovery of interventional strategies and early diagnosis of ME/CFS.