Pre-illness data reveals differences in multiple metabolites and metabolic pathways in those who do and do not recover from infectious mononucleosis†
Metabolic pathways related to energy production, amino acids, nucleotides, nitrogen, lipids, and neurotransmitters in myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) may contribute to the pathophysiology of ME/CFS. 4501 Northwestern University college students were enrolled in a prospective, longitudinal study. We collected data before illness, during infectious mononucleosis (IM), and at a 6 month follow-up for those who recovered (N = 18) versus those who went on to develop ME/CFS 6 months later (N = 18). Examining pre-illness blood samples, we found significant detectable metabolite differences between participants fated to develop severe ME/CFS following IM versus recovered controls. We identified glutathione metabolism, nucleotide metabolism, and the TCA cycle (among others) as potentially dysregulated pathways. The pathways that differed between cases and controls are essential for proliferating cells, particularly during a pro-inflammatory immune response. Performing a series of binary logistic regressions using a leave-one-out cross-validation (LOOCV), our models correctly classified the severe ME/CFS group and recovered controls with an accuracy of 97.2%, sensitivity of 94.4%, and specificity of 100.0%. These changes are consistent with the elevations in pro-inflammatory cytokines that we have reported for patients fated to develop severe ME/CFS 6 months after IM.