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Research shows ME virus link in children

Further evidence has been found to suggest that ME, or chronic fatigue syndrome, could be caused by a virus, the BBC has reported

Further evidence has been found to suggest that ME (myalgic encephalomyelitis), or chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), could be caused by a virus, the BBC has reported.

The study conducted by scientists at the University of Dundee found abnormalities in the white blood cells of children with ME/CFS, suggesting they had been fighting an infection.

The trial assessed 25 children between seven and 14 with ME/CFS, plus 23 children of a similar age in a control group.

Higher levels of free radicals were found in the blood of the children with ME/CFS. Free radicals are molecules that damage cells, tissues and organs. The results were similar to those previously identitfied in adults with ME/CFS.

A higher number of neutrophils, the most common type of white blood cells, were also found to be at the end of their lifecycle, indicating the body's need to fight infection.

Professor Jill Belch who led the research said: "This is important because it's showing an abnormality that we might be able to devise a treatment for, but it's also important because some people suggest that ME is a disease of the mind and here we are showing that it is a disease of the body."

Dr Neil Abott of ME Research UK said it was: "fascinating to discover evidence of a persistent or reactivating viral infection. Although the cause of ME is unknown, more than half of all patients said their illness started with an infection."

This study was funded by ME Research UK and The Young ME Sufferers (Tymes) Trust and the report was published in the Archives of Paediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.

ME/CFS causes debilitating tiredness. Symptoms include muscle pain, sore throat, tender lymph nodes, multi-joint pain and headaches. Around 150,000 people suffer from it in the UK, with one in 10 of these children.

7th September 2010

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