Cardiovascular and haematological pathology in myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS): A role for viruses

Nunes, Jean M, Kell, Douglas B ORCID: 0000-0001-5838-7963 and Pretorius, Etheresia
(2023) Cardiovascular and haematological pathology in myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS): A role for viruses. BLOOD REVIEWS, 60. 101075-.

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ME/CFS is a debilitating chronic condition that often develops after viral or bacterial infection. Insight from the study of Long COVID/Post Acute Sequelae of COVID-19 (PASC), the post-viral syndrome associated with SARS-CoV-2 infection, might prove to be useful for understanding pathophysiological mechanisms of ME/CFS. Disease presentation is similar between the two conditions, and a subset of Long COVID patients meet the diagnostic criteria for ME/CFS. Since Long COVID is characterized by significant vascular pathology - including endothelial dysfunction, coagulopathy, and vascular dysregulation - the question of whether or not the same biological abnormalities are of significance in ME/CFS arises. Cardiac abnormalities have for a while now been documented in ME/CFS cohorts, with recent studies demonstrating major deficits in cerebral blood flow, and hence vascular dysregulation. A growing body of research is demonstrating that ME/CFS is accompanied by platelet hyperactivation, anomalous clotting, a procoagulant phenotype, and endothelial dysfunction. Endothelial damage and dysregulated clotting can impair substance exchange between blood and tissues, and result in hypoperfusion, which may contribute to the manifestation of certain ME/CFS symptoms. Here we review the ME/CFS literature to summarize cardiovascular and haematological findings documented in patients with the condition, and, in this context, briefly discuss the potential role of previously-implicated pathogens. Overall, cardiac and haematological abnormalities are present within ME/CFS cohorts. While atherosclerotic heart disease is not significantly associated with ME/CFS, suboptimal cardiovascular function defined by reduced cardiac output, impaired cerebral blood flow, and vascular dysregulation are, and these abnormalities do not appear to be influenced by deconditioning. Rather, these cardiac abnormalities may result from dysfunction in the (autonomic) nervous system. Plenty of recently published studies are demonstrating significant platelet hyperactivity and endothelial dysfunction in ME/CFS, as well as anomalous clotting processes. It is of particular importance to determine to what extent these cardiovascular and haematological abnormalities contribute to symptom severity, and if these two systems can be targeted for therapeutic purposes. Viral reservoirs of herpesviruses exist in ME/CFS, and most likely contribute to cardiovascular and haematological dysfunction directly or indirectly. This review highlights the potential of studying cardiac functioning, the vasculature, and coagulation system in ME/CFS.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Myalgic encephalomyelitis, chronic fatigue, syndrome (ME, CFS), Haematological system, Endothelial dysfunction
Divisions: Faculty of Health and Life Sciences
Faculty of Health and Life Sciences > Institute of Systems, Molecular and Integrative Biology
Depositing User: Symplectic Admin
Date Deposited: 17 Apr 2023 09:47
Last Modified: 16 Aug 2023 04:00
DOI: 10.1016/j.blre.2023.101075
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