AIMS--To investigate in detail various biochemical and pathophysiological indices of muscle pathology in acute onset post-viral fatigue syndrome (PVFS). METHODS--Twenty three patients with PVFS (of mean duration 4.6 years) were subjected to needle biopsy for histomorphometry and total RNA contents. Plasma analysis included serology and creatine kinase activities. Indices of whole body mass were also measured--namely, whole body potassium content and plasma carnosinase activities. RESULTS--About 80% of the patients had serology indicative of persistent enteroviral infection as determined by VP1 antigen assay. Only about 10% of that same group of patients had serological indications of current enterovirus infection by IgM assay; a separate subset of 10% showed antibody changes suggestive of reactivation of Epstein-Barr virus. Quantitative morphometric analysis of skeletal muscle fibres indicated that the quadriceps muscle was normal or displayed only minor abnormalities in 22 patients. The Quetelet's Index (body mass index) and whole-body potassium values (index of lean body mass) were not affected in PVFS. The mean plasma carnosinase and creatinine kinase activities were also generally normal in these patients. The mean muscle RNA composition--mg RNA/mg DNA--was significantly reduced in acute onset PVFS by about 15%. The protein:DNA ratio was not significantly affected. CONCLUSIONS--Patients with acute onset PVFS, therefore, lose muscle protein synthetic potential, but not muscle bulk. Histopathology is consistent with these observations. These perturbations may contribute to the apparent feature of perceived muscle weakness associated with the persistent viral infection in the muscle themselves.
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