June 4, 2006

Chronic fatigue traced to mothers – US study

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Mothers of teenagers with chronic fatigue syndrome are also more likely to have the mysterious ailment, or display psychological stresses that may play a role in the child's illness, a study said on Monday.

In the study that included 36 children averaging 16 years old diagnosed with chronic fatigue, their mothers were likely to share their symptoms, while fathers showed no connection, the study found.

"Our study revealed a shared symptom complex of fatigue, fatigue-associated symptoms, and psychological distress between adolescents with chronic fatigue syndrome and their mothers," the study said.

Between 500,000 and one million Americans have chronic fatigue syndrome.

Study author Elise M. van de Putte of Wilhelmina Children's Hospital in Utrecht, the Netherlands, suggested the link was the "result of an interplay between genetic susceptibility and environmental factors."

"It may point to a gene-environment interaction in which the child not only inherits the genetic characteristics of the mother, but these maternal characteristics also function as environmental factors for the child," she wrote in the June issue of "Pediatrics," the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The report did not rule out a mother having stressful responses to her child's illness that reinforced the symptoms.

The illness can persist for years and often leaves victims listless, with symptoms such as pain, headaches, swollen lymph nodes, and problems with memory and concentration.

Increasingly, research into chronic fatigue syndrome has pointed to genetic causes, though it was once dismissed by some medical experts as being all in the mind.

In April, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said genetic studies on more than 200 patients showed there likely was a biological basis for the illness, related to how parts of the brain respond to stress. Last year, British researchers reported finding genetic abnormalities in sufferers' white blood cells, which direct the body's immune response.