A new study has linked a group of viruses, the enteroviruses, known to cause stomach and respiratory infections with chronic fatigue syndrome. The link is not yet established definitively, but may lead CFS research in a new direction. Proving the link would be helpful to doctors because it would give them a way to test for chronic fatigue syndrome. Right now there aren't any tests to prove the existence of CFS. Doctors can only identify the symptoms.
What is chronic fatigue syndrome?
Chronic fatigue syndrome is a debilitating disease that causes problems with fatigue, sleeping, concentration, memory and pain, and lasts for at least six months. More than one million people in the United States are believed to be afflicted. CFS is usually found in women between the ages of 40 and 60, but anyone of any age can get it.
What is an enterovirus?
Enteroviruses cause 10-15 million infections (with symptoms) in the United States each year. They are one of the most common viral contagions for humans, second only to rhinoviruses, which cause the common cold. Three types of enteroviruses cause polio, but these have been mostly eliminated in the United States through vaccination. Most people who are infected with an enterovirus have no symptoms of disease and remain healthy and unaware of the infection. If you do get symptoms, they will usually be:
- Mild respiratory symptoms
- Fever and muscle aches
It is not common, but sometimes people can get more serious illnesses from enteroviruses like meningitis, myocarditis, encephalitis or paralysis. Enterovirus infections are suspected to cause Type 1 diabetes and can kill infants. With the exception of polio vaccines, no vaccines are available for enteroviruses.
Enteroviruses as a possible cause of chronic fatigue syndrome
Dr. John Chia, an infectious disease specialist in Lomita, California, believes that enteroviruses may be a cause of CFS. Scientists have long believed that chronic fatigue syndrome has a connection to viral infection. Traditionally, they examined the blood for evidence of viral infection. Knowing the viruses are resistant to stomach acid, Chia performed endoscopies and took stomach biopsies instead. In his study, Chia found that 82 percent of 165 CFS patients tested positive for enterovirus. Of the 34 volunteers without chronic fatigue syndrome, 20 percent tested positive. Dr. Chia believes that about 50 percent of chronic fatigue syndrome cases are caused by contracting an enterovirus.
Chronic fatigue syndrome and viral infections
Other viruses have been linked to chronic fatigue syndrome, including:
- Para influenza Virus-5
- Epstein-Barr virus (mononucleosis)
- Human herpes virus 6
Other possible causes of chronic fatigue syndrome
We don't yet know for sure what causes CFS. Over the years, doctors have proposed several other causes of CFS, including:
- Iron deficiency
- Immune system dysfunction
Chronic fatigue syndrome is a difficult, complicated disease that may have many different causes. CFS has been linked to several viruses, like enteroviruses, herpes and mononucleosis, and may have other causes as well. Chronic fatigue syndrome remains a mystery, but the discovery of the stomach virus link has brought scientists one step closer ending patient's suffering.
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