ISSN 1941-5923


A Pair of Identical Twins Discordant for Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Differ in Physiological Parameters and Gut Microbiome Composition

Ludovic Giloteaux, Maureen R. Hanson, Betsy A. Keller

(Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, USA)

Am J Case Rep 2016; 17:720-729

DOI: 10.12659/AJCR.900314

Published: 2016-10-10

BACKGROUND: Patients with myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) present with profound fatigue, flu-like symptoms, pain, cognitive impairment, orthostatic intolerance, and post-exertional malaise (PEM), and exacerbation of some or all of the baseline symptoms.
CASE REPORT: We report on a pair of 34-year-old monozygotic twins discordant for ME/CFS, with WELL, the non-affected twin, and ILL, the affected twin. Both twins performed a two-day cardiopulmonary exercise test (CPET), pre- and post-exercise blood samples were drawn, and both provided stool samples for biochemical and molecular analysis. At peak exertion for both CPETs, ILL presented lower VO2peak and peak workload compared to WELL. WELL demonstrated normal reproducibility of VO2@ventilatory/anaerobic threshold (VAT) during  CPET2, whereas ILL experienced an abnormal reduction of 13% in VAT during  CPET2. A normal rise in lactate dehydrogenase (LDH), creatine kinase (CK), adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), cortisol, creatinine, and ferritin content was observed following exercise for both WELL and ILL at each CPET. ILL showed higher increases of resistin, soluble CD40 ligand (sCD40L), and soluble Fas ligand (sFasL) after exercise compared to WELL. The gut bacterial microbiome and virome were examined and revealed a lower microbial diversity in ILL compared to WELL, with fewer beneficial bacteria such as Faecalibacterium and Bifidobacterium, and an expansion of bacteriophages belonging to the tailed dsDNA Caudovirales order. 
CONCLUSIONS: Results suggest dysfunctional immune activation in ILL following exercise and that prokaryotic viruses may contribute to mucosal inflammation and bacterial dysbiosis. Therefore, a two-day CPET and molecular analysis of blood and microbiomes could provide valuable information about ME/CFS, particularly if applied to a larger cohort of monozygotic twins.

Keywords: Cytokines, Exercise Test, microbiota, Plasma, Twins, Monozygotic