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OBJECTIVES—To examine the proportions of type 1 and type 2 muscle fibres and the degree of muscle fibre atrophy and
hypertrophy in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome in relation to
lactate responses to exercise, and to determine to what extent any
abnormalities found might be due to inactivity.
METHODS—Quadriceps needle muscle biopsies were obtained from 105 patients with chronic fatigue syndrome and the proportions of type 1 and 2 fibres and fibre atrophy and hypertrophy factors were determined from histochemical preparations, using a semiautomated image analysis system. Forty one randomly selected biopsies were also examined by electron microscopy. Lactate responses to exercise were measured in the subanaerobic threshold exercise test (SATET).
RESULTS—Inactivity would be expected to result in a shift to type 2 fibre predominance and fibre atrophy, but type 1 predominance (23%) was more common than type 2 predominance (3%), and fibre atrophy was found in only 10.4% of cases. Patients with increased lactate responses to exercise did have significantly fewer type 1 muscle fibres (p<0.043 males, p<0.0003 females), but there was no evidence that this group was less active than the patients with normal lactate responses. No significant ultrastructural abnormalities were found.
CONCLUSION—Muscle histometry in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome generally did not show the changes expected as a result of inactivity. However, patients with abnormal lactate responses to exercise had a significantly lower proportion of mitochondria rich type 1 muscle fibres.