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A closer look at chronic fatigue syndrome and mononucleosis in teens

September 09, 2010
  • Teens with chronic fatigue syndrome struggle to keep up with their peers.
Teens with chronic fatigue syndrome struggle to keep up with their peers. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles…)

Teenagers with chronic fatigue syndrome may push themselves too hard, which contributes to ongoing fatigue, claim the authors of a new study.
Researchers followed 301 adolescents with mononucleosis, which often precedes chronic fatigue syndrome in teens. They diagnosed 39 teens with chronic fatigue syndrome six months after the mononucleosis diagnosis. That group of adolescents was compared with 39 of the youths who had mononucleosis but who had recovered fully after six months. The two groups were followed for two more years. At the conclusion of the study, the researchers found no differences between the two groups in the amount of physical activity before, during or after the infection. However, the kids with chronic fatigue syndrome slept much more during the day and had much more fatigue, suggesting they paid a higher price for pushing themselves to stay active and keep up with their peers.
The study, published Monday in the Archives of Child & Adolescent Medicine, was accompanied by several other studies on chronic fatigue syndrome in teens, a mysterious and controversial disorder estimated to affect 1.3% to 4.4% of U.S. adolescents.
In another paper, scientists suggested the importance of understanding the disorder and providing effective treatment. A study of 54 adolescents with chronic fatigue syndrome showed that about half recovered after two years while the rest were still severely fatigued and physically impaired.
Finally, a third study compared 25 children with chronic fatigue syndrome with 23 healthy kids and found several differences in blood tests between the two groups. The kids with chronic fatigue syndrome had differences in their white blood cells as well as higher levels of cholesterol and C-reactive protein, both markers for oxidative stress, which damages cells. They also had lower levels of antioxidant vitamins C and E, which helps protect cells from stress.

The findings are evidence of "an underlying detectable abnormality" in the immune systems of people with CFS, the authors said. The finding is intriguing in light of a meeting this week at the National Institutes of Health that is exploring the link between the xenotropic murine leukemia virus (XMLV) and chronic fatigue syndrome.
-- Shari Roan / Los Angeles Times
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