A virus relating to immune cells in the bloodstream may be the cause of chronic fatigue syndrome, or ME, in children, researchers have said.
Children with myalgic encephalomyelitis were found to have abnormal white blood cells in a study carried out at the University of Dundee. The researchers said this suggested the children had been fighting off infection.
The 18-month study involved 25 ME victims aged 10-18 from around the UK and a control group of 23 children of similar age.
Research leader Gwen Kennedy said: “These results are of great importance. Not only do they show an underlying, detectable defect in the behaviour of the children’s immune cells, they also confirm our previous findings in adults.”
Jill Belch at Dundee’s Ninewells Hospital, where the research took place, told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland: “The findings that we have shown are those that are commonly seen when somebody has a virus or an infection. For example, if you have a virus or a bacteria your white blood cell will swallow the particle and then release chemicals to kill it.
“What we found was an increased amount of these killer chemicals and the white blood cells don’t last as long, which is a sign that they’ve been very active.
“So this is a definite physical sign of ill-health.”
ME Research UK and The Young ME Sufferers Trust funded the study, and the Archives of Paediatrics and Adolescent Medicine published the findings.