Researchers Find Biomarkers for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

 In Naturopathic News

A recent study has isolated 17 immune modulating signaling proteins that may correlate to disease severity of chronic fatigue syndrome.1 Chronic fatigue syndrome is a life altering condition that is very poorly understood, and can present clinically with many non-descript functional symptoms, such as “brain fog,” depression, myalgia, and insomnia. It is not uncommon for individuals with this condition to be worked up for many potential pathological conditions, by many different doctors (many specialists), before being diagnosed. It is also possible that the inverse occurs, whereby an individual is diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome, and has another organic condition, which may be more aptly treated. Developing blood serum tests which may enable clinicians to better assess the likelihood of chronic fatigue syndrome is very important.

About the Study

During the current study, 192 chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) patients and 392 healthy controls were analyzed (blood). A 51-multiplex array system was utilized. In general, TGF-beta was increased and resistin was decreased in CFS patients compared to controls. In total, 17 cytokines showed statistically significant increases compared to controls: CCL11 (Eotaxin-1), CXCL1 (GROα), CXCL10 (IP-10), IFN-γ, IL-4, IL-5, IL-7, IL-12p70, IL-13, IL-17F, leptin, G-CSF, GM-CSF, LIF, NGF, SCF, and TGF-α. Thirteen of the seventeen are known to be proinflammatory.


TGF-beta can be both anti-inflammatory and proinflammatory. It typically takes on the role of proinflammatory in certain types of cancers. This could help explain the higher incidence of lymphoma in CFS patients. Leptin, a cytokine secreted by fat tissue, serves as a pro-inflammatory satiety marker – letting the brain know when it is full. Leptin is generally more abundant in women’s blood than men’s.


These findings add to the evidence that CFS is an inflammatory mediated condition which affects multiple body systems, including endocrine and neuromuscular systems. It also helps account for the flu-like symptoms that are very common in this condition.  This also adds to the debate whether CFS is even an actual medical condition. Having blood markers to test for, certainly helps solidify the diagnosis.


  1. Montoya JG, Holmes TH, Anderson JN, et al. Cytokine signature associated with disease severity in chronic fatigue syndrome patients. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 2017
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Node Smith, associate editor for NDNR, is a fifth year naturopathic medical student at NUNM, where he has been instrumental in maintaining a firm connection to the philosophy and heritage of naturopathic medicine amongst the next generation of docs. He helped found the first multi-generational experiential retreat, which brings elders, alumni, and students together for a weekend campout where naturopathic medicine and medical philosophy are experienced in nature. Three years ago he helped found the non-profit, Association for Naturopathic ReVitalization (ANR), for which he serves as the board chairman. ANR has a mission to inspire health practitioners to embody the naturopathic principles through experiential education. Node also has a firm belief that the next era of naturopathic medicine will see a resurgence of in-patient facilities which use fasting, earthing, hydrotherapy and homeopathy to bring people back from chronic diseases of modern living; he is involved in numerous conversations and projects to bring about this vision.

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