SAGE Journals

Cytokine network analysis in a community-based pediatric sample of patients with myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome

Version 2 2022-07-25, 10:06
Version 1 2022-05-17, 00:07
Posted on 2022-07-25 - 10:06

Studies have demonstrated immune dysfunction in adolescents with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS); however, evidence is varied. The current study used network analysis to examine relationships between cytokines among a sample of pediatric participants with ME/CFS.


10,119 youth aged 5–17 in the Chicagoland area were screened for ME/CFS; 111 subjects and controls were brought in for a physician examination and completed a blood draw. Youth were classified as controls (Cs, N = 43), ME/CFS (N = 23) or severe (S-ME/CFS, N = 45). Patterns of plasma cytokine networks were analyzed.


All participant groups displayed a primary network of interconnected cytokines. In the ME/CFS group, inflammatory cytokines IL-12p70, IL-17A, and IFN-γ were connected and included in the primary membership, suggesting activation of inflammatory mechanisms. The S-ME/CFS group demonstrated a strong relationship between IL-17A and IL-23, a connection associated with chronic inflammation. The relationships of IL-6 and IL-8 in ME/CFS and S-ME/CFS participants also differed from Cs. Together, these results indicate pro-inflammatory responses in our illness populations.


Our data imply biological differences between our three participant groups, with ME/CFS and S-ME/CFS participants demonstrating an inflammatory profile. Examining co-expression of cytokines may aid in the identification of a biomarker for pediatric ME/CFS.


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