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Dr. Dorottya Nagy
Postdoctoral Research Scientist, Columbia University
May 3, 2017 · 713 Reads

Scientists identify a link between gut bacteria and chronic fatigue syndrome

In Short: Scientists have identified that changes in the bacterial species living the gut may be linked to chronic fatigue syndrome. This study will help us to develop accurate diagnosis and targeted therapies.


Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) a medical condition with fever, aching, and prolonged tiredness and depression, typically like the feeling you get after a viral infection. What is notable is that up to 90 percent of these patients also have gastrointestinal symptoms and/or irritable bowel syndrome which is characterized by cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, diarrhoea and constipation.

Over the past decade, numerous studies have found an association between the gut microbiota composition (microorganisms living in the gut) and many diseases.

Nature Reviews Gastroenterology & Hepatology (2017) doi:10.1038/nrgastro.2017.54

Researchers speculated a link between the microorganisms living in the gut (microbiota) and chronic fatigue syndrome and sought to rigorously study it.

Method and Science

Scientists followed 50 patients with CFS and 50 healthy people and examined their fecal matter for the presence of bacterial species. Analyzing these results, along with other measurements, found that patients with CFS had a distinct mix of bacteria in their gut. Additionally, the severity of the disease, including pain and fatigue, also correlated with the abundance of these distinct bacterial types.

Photo Illustration: Diana Quach

Scientists think that the normal bidirectional communication between the brain and the gut is disrupted by these unique set of bacteria which leads to the manifestations of the disease.


Now that the specific bacteria involved has been identified, it moves research one step closer to more accurate diagnosis and targeted therapies. Moving forward, identifying ways to subgroup these patients may provide clues to understanding differences in the manifestations of the disease.

Research Article: Fecal metagenomic profiles in subgroups of patients with myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome. Microbiome 2017 5:44 doi: 10.1186/s40168–017–0261-y

Dr. Dorottya Nagy-Szakal is a postdoctoral research scientist in the Center for Infection and Immunity (CII) at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.

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