Reductions in circulating levels of IL-16, IL-7 and VEGF-A in myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome
Place of Publication
School of Science
Recently, differences in the levels of various chemokines and cytokines were reported in patients with myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) as compared with controls. Moreover, the analyte profile differed between chronic ME/CFS patients of long duration versus patients with disease of less than 3 years. In the current study, we measured the plasma levels of 34 cytokines, chemokines and growth factors in 100 chronic ME/CFS patients of long duration and in 79 gender and age-matched controls. We observed highly significant reductions in the concentration of circulating interleukin (IL)-16, IL-7, and Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A (VEGF-A) in ME/CFS patients. All three biomarkers were significantly correlated in a multivariate cluster analysis. In addition, we identified significant reductions in the concentrations of fractalkine (CX3CL1) and monokine-induced-by-IFN-γ (MIG; CXCL9) along with increases in the concentrations of eotaxin 2 (CCL24) in ME/CFS patients. Our data recapitulates previous data from another USA ME/CFS cohort in which circulating levels of IL-7 were reduced. Also, a reduced level of VEGF-A was reported previously in sera of patients with Gulf War Illness as well as in cerebral spinal fluid samples from a different cohort of USA ME/CFS patients. To our knowledge, we are the first to test for levels of IL-16 in ME/CFS patients. In combination with previous data, our work suggests that the clustered reduction of IL-7, IL-16 and VEGF-A may have physiological relevance to ME/CFS disease. This profile is ME/CFS-specific since measurement of the same analytes present in chronic infectious and autoimmune liver diseases, where persistent fatigue is also a major symptom, failed to demonstrate the same changes. Further studies of other ME/CFS and overlapping disease cohorts are warranted in future.