Patients with chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia have higher levels of high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hsCRP) — a marker of inflammation — compared to healthy individuals, a study has found.
The relationship remains true even after adjusting for other variables such as body mass index (BMI), age and smoking status. This finding indicates an inflammatory activity in these patients that may be valuable as a therapy target.
The study, “Patients with Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome show increased hsCRP compared to healthy controls,” was published in the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity.
Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) and fibromyalgia (FM) are distinct chronic disorders that have overlapping clinical characteristics, including pain and fatigue.
Interestingly, pain and fatigue are common traits across several different inflammatory disorders. Research also has shown inflammation directly activates pain pathways in the body.
As inflammation is a prominent component of the immune system, it has been suggested that the immune system may have a role in the development of CFS and FM.
However, the full extent of the connection between CFS, FM and the immune system is not conclusive.
A group of researchers from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) set out to investigate the levels of hsCRP — a well-established marker of inflammation — in CFS and FM patients compared to healthy people (controls).
Female participants between the ages of 18 and 60 were recruited for this study. The group consisted of 49 CFS patients, 57 FM patients, and 54 healthy controls. Subjects’ blood samples were collected and analyzed for expression of hsCRP.
Results indicated that the median hsCRP concentration was 0.94 mg/L for CFS, 1.30 mg/L for FM, and 0.60 mg/L for the control group.
Those results indicated that hsCRP levels were significantly higher for both CFS and the FM patients compared to healthy controls.
Interestingly, there were no statistical differences with regards to hsCRP between the two patient groups.
Next, researchers determined whether hsCRP levels were affected by any other factors, such as BMI, age or smoking. While BMI was correlated to hsCRP levels, neither age nor smoking were. “After adjustment for BMI, the increased hsCRP in both patient groups compared to healthy controls was still significant,” the authors wrote.
“Patients with CFS and FM have higher concentrations of hsCRP compared to healthy controls. This remains significant even after adjusting for BMI. CFS and FM cannot be distinguished from each other on the basis of hsCRP in our study,” the authors concluded.
As per guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Heart Association, the hsCRP levels in CFS and FM patients of this study fall within the moderate-to-high-risk concentration. “As such, this has clinical relevance beyond defining the cause of CFS and FM,” the researchers stated.
“Inflammation is a well-known cause of fatigue and pain and may be a target for attack by medications as well as a marker for monitoring any treatment of these conditions,” they surmised.