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Studies Link Microbiome Dysfunction, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) is associated with reduced levels of microbes that produce the fatty acid butyrate with patients' gut microbiomes, according to a pair of studies appearing this week in Cell Host & Microbe. The findings may help better understand the causes of ME/CFS and point to new therapeutic targets. In the first study, a team led by scientists from The Jackson Laboratory used shotgun metagenomics to analyze stool samples from about 150 individuals with short- and long-term ME/CFS along with 79 healthy controls, combining their findings with analyses of plasma samples from the patients. They find that people with short-term disease had the most significant microbial and gastrointestinal abnormalities, with decreased levels of butyrate-producing microbes. Long-term patients tended to have stable gut microbiomes, but also significantly more irreversible health problems and progressive metabolic aberrations. In the second study, a Columbia University-led group applied shotgun metagenomic sequencing to stool samples of 106 ME/CFS patients and 91 healthy controls. The researchers also uncovered substantial gut microbiome dysbiosis in patients, including a reduction in butyrate-producing bacteria. Notably, lower levels of these bacteria correlated to more severe fatigue symptoms. Together, the findings of the two studies shed light on microbiome disturbances and their relationship with ME/CFS.