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Possible New Cause of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Identified


Though the findings are too preliminary to indicate how they might impact people with CFS, the investigators speculate that they may lead to new therapies such as antibiotics to destroy the bacteria that produce the offending toxin. The investigators presented their findings recently at an immunology conference in Utrecht, Netherlands.

Expert Jay A. Goldstein, MD, a researcher and clinician specializing in CFS who is in private practice in Orange, Calif., does not agree that anandamides are a likely culprit in CFS. He says that the hundreds of studies that have been conducted on the anandamide system to date show that, rather than contribute to the symptoms of CFS, anandamides actually help reduce them. For instance, anandamides stimulate brain chemicals responsible for blocking anxiety and panic, common problems in people with CFS.

"It would be very unusual for anandamides to cause pain," says Goldstein. "There's a lot of articles about it reducing pain, but I can't even think of one showing it causing pain. ... I can't see anandamide increasing pain unless there is something else wrong making the anandamide not work properly. ... Anandamides suppress the immune system, and in people with CFS, for the most part, ... you have immune activation, not immune suppression. That's why almost everyone with CFS has allergies, for example. ... So many things [in this research] are the opposite of what they should be if anandamide was increased."

Goldstein is even skeptical about the role of the delta-hemolysin toxin. "There have been so many microorganisms purported to be associated with CFS that it's like the bug-of-the-month club," he says.

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