Although chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) has been recognized as a cause of morbidity in the United States, the etiology of CFS is unknown. In addition, information is incomplete concerning the clinical spectrum and prevalence of CFS in the United States.
This report summarizes CFS surveillance data collected in four U.S. cities from September 1989 through August 1993.
A physician-based surveillance system for CFS was established in four U.S. metropolitan areas: Atlanta, Georgia; Wichita, Kansas; Grand Rapids, Michigan; and Reno, Nevada. The objectives of this surveillance system were to collect descriptive epidemiologic information from patients who had unexplained chronic fatigue, estimate the prevalence and incidence of CFS in defined populations, and describe the clinical course of CFS. Patients aged > or = 18 years who had had unexplained, debilitating fatigue or chronic unwellness for at least 6 months were referred by their physicians to a designated health professional(s) in their area. Those patients who participated in the surveillance system a) were interviewed by the health professional(s); b) completed a self-administered questionnaire that included their demographic information, medical history, and responses to the Beck Depression Inventory, the Diagnostic Interview Schedule, and the Sickness Impact Profile; c) submitted blood and urine samples for laboratory testing; and d) agreed to a review of their medical records. On the basis of this information, patients were assigned to one of four groups: those whose illnesses met the criteria of the 1988 CFS case definition (Group I); those whose fatigue or symptoms did not meet the criteria for CFS (Group II); those who had had an identifiable psychological disorder before onset of fatigue (Group III); and those who had evidence of other medical conditions that could have caused fatigue (Group IV). Patients assigned to Group III were further evaluated to determine the group to which they would have been assigned had psychological illness not been present, the epidemiologic characteristics of the illness and the frequency of symptoms among patients were evaluated, and the prevalence and incidence of CFS were estimated for each of the areas.
Of the 648 patients referred to the CFS surveillance system, 565 (87%) agreed to participate. Of these, 130 (23%) were assigned to Group I; 99 (18%), Group II; 235 (42%), Group III; and 101 (18%), Group IV. Of the 130 CFS patients, 125 (96%) were white and 111 (85%) were women. The mean age of CFS patients at the onset of illness was 30 years, and the mean duration of illness at the time of the interview was 6.7 years. Most (96%) CFS patients had completed high school, and 38% had graduated from college. The median annual household income/for CFS patients was $40,000. In the four cities, the age-, sex-, and race-adjusted prevalences of CFS for the 4-year surveillance period ranged from 4.0 to 8.7 per 100,000 population. The age-adjusted 4-year prevalences of CFS among white women ranged from 8.8 to 19.5 per 100,000 population.
The results of this surveillance system were similar to those in previously published reports of CFS. Additional studies should be directed toward determining whether the data collected in this surveillance system were subject to selection bias (e.g., education and income levels might have influenced usage of the health-care system, and the populations of these four surveillance sites might not be representative of the U.S. population).
In February 1997, CDC began a large-scale, cross-sectional study at one surveillance site (Wichita) to describe more completely the magnitude and epidemiology of unexplained chronic fatigue and CFS.
"The first studies to use prospective sampling methods were based on physician referrals.10–13 Studies gradually began to directly screen samples from primary care clinics,13–18 and the wider community,2,4–6,19–28 through questionnaires and structured interviews. In contrast, larger population based studies first screen medical databases for potential cases.7,16 "
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: To perform a meta-analysis to examine variability among prevalence estimates for CFS/ME, according to the method of assessment used.
Databases were systematically searched for studies on CFS/ME prevalence in adults that applied the 1994 Centers for Disease Control (CDC) case definition.1 Estimates were categorized into two methods of assessment: self-reporting of symptoms versus clinical assessment of symptoms. Meta-analysis was performed to pool prevalences by assessment using random effects modeling. This was stratified by sample setting (community or primary care) and heterogeneity was examined using the I (2) statistic.
Of 216 records found, 14 studies were considered suitable for inclusion. The pooled prevalence for self-reporting assessment was 3.28% (95% CI: 2.24-4.33) and 0.76% (95% CI: 0.23-1.29) for clinical assessment. High variability was observed among self-reported estimates, while clinically assessed estimates showed greater consistency.
The observed heterogeneity in CFS/ME prevalence may be due to differences in method of assessment. Stakeholders should be cautious of prevalence determined by the self-reporting of symptoms alone. The 1994 CDC case definition appeared to be the most reliable clinical assessment tool available at the time of these studies. Improving clinical case definitions and their adoption internationally will enable better comparisons of findings and inform health systems about the true burden of CFS/ME.
"We had the opportunity to measure the associations of common autoantibodies and autoantibodies to neuronal cell antigens and CFS in two case control studies; one of primary care patients with CFS who were identified by a physician surveillance network; the other a study of people with CFS identified from the community. The physician surveillance study was conducted 1988 through 1993 in Atlanta, Georgia  and the community study 1997 through 2000 and identified subjects with CFS from the general population of Wichita, Kansas . "
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: People with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) suffer from multiple symptoms including fatigue, impaired memory and concentration, unrefreshing sleep and musculoskeletal pain. The exact causes of CFS are not known, but the symptom complex resembles that of several diseases that affect the immune system and autoantibodies may provide clues to the various etiologies of CFS. We used ELISA, immunoblot and commercially available assays to test serum from subjects enrolled in a physician-based surveillance study conducted in Atlanta, Georgia and a population-based study in Wichita, Kansas for a number of common autoantibodies and antibodies to neuron specific antigens. Subsets of those with CFS had higher rates of antibodies to microtubule-associated protein 2 (MAP2) (p = 0.03) and ssDNA (p = 0.04). There was no evidence of higher rates for several common nuclear and cellular antigens in people with CFS. Autoantibodies to specific host cell antigens may be a useful approach for identifying subsets of people with CFS, identify biomarkers, and provide clues to CFS etiologies.
Journal of Autoimmune Diseases 06/2005; 2(1):5. DOI:10.1186/1740-2557-2-5
"Subjects and study design have been presented in detail elsewhere [25,26]. In brief, 26 patients with CFS (23 women and 3 men) were recruited from a physician surveillance study in Atlanta . Patients met the 1988 CFS research case definition  and had been ill for no more than 10 years. "
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is an illness in search of an infectious etiology. GB virus-C (GBV-C) virus is a flavivirus with cell tropism and host defense induction qualities compatible with a role in producing the syndrome. The GBV-C genome is detectable in 4% of the population and 12% of the population is seropositive. The present study evaluated the association between infection with GBV and CFS.
We used a commercial EIA to detect antibodies against the GBV-C E2 protein and a quantitative real-time RT-PCR assay to detect active GBV-C infection. Sera were from a case control study of CFS in Atlanta, Georgia. The Fisher's exact two-tailed test was used for statistical analysis.
Two of 12 CFS patients and one of 21 controls were seropositive for prior GBV-C infection and one control had viral RNA detected, indicating active infection. The results are not statistically different.
We found no evidence that active or past infection with GBV is associated with CFS.
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