Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

What’s the Key to Chronic Fatigue?


Credit: alphaspirit/Adobe

By Donald Staines & Sonya Marshall-Gradisnik

Chronic fatigue has a range of debilitating symptoms that have defied a pathological explanation. Now researchers are zeroing in on receptors with a role in the immune system.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

The term “chronic fatigue syndrome” is a poorly conceived diagnostic term to describe a debilitating and protracted condition. It entails profound fatigue, usually worsened by exertion, and an incapacitating type of brain fog associated with greatly impaired memory, concentration and rational and emotional thought processes. Most who experience it describe it as the worst experience of their live. Many are undiagnosed or disbelieved; a number even suicide.

Currently no confirmatory diagnostic test is available, and diagnosis depends on case definitions that have evolved over time. These definitions classify the experience of the illness in terms of fatigue, memory and concentration disorder, and a variety of other symptoms pertaining to the cardiovascular, gastrointestinal and immunological systems. Almost all bodily systems are affected by this illness.

Detective Work

Interestingly, the illness often follows infection, trauma or another incident. Consequently a psychogenic cause was once postulated, but this has largely been discredited.

While laboratory investigation has been frustratingly short of clear changes in blood or tissue samples, there are exceptions. Our laboratory, and other researchers have consistently found significantly impaired natural killer cell function. This is where our detective work began.

The immune system...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.