1998 Clinical and Scientific Meeting

R. Hugh Dunstan, Neil R. McGregor, Warren G. Taylor Mark Donohoe [1], Timothy K. Roberts, Henry L. Butt [2], Raymond N. Murdoch, Jennifer A. Watkins

Collaborative Pain Research Unit: Department of Biological Sciences
The University of Newcastle, Callaghan, NSW 2308 Australia
Neurobiology Research Unit
Centre for Oral Health Research,
University of Sydney, Westmead Hospital
Westmead, NSW 2084, Australia.
1 Environmental Medical Centre
NSW 2088
2 Division of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases
Hunter Area Pathology Service
John Hunter Hospital
NSW 2305

Chlorinated Pesticides and Chronic Fatigue-Related Illness

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a disorder characterised by chronic fatigue and somatic symptoms and, since there are no objective diagnostic tests available, the definition includes many exclusionary criteria1. Hexachlorobenzene (HCB) and dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) are chlorinated hydrocarbon pesticides, which are recalcitrant molecules that accumulate in the membranes of all cells in the body. This represents a substantial distribution of pesticides around the various body organs. The integrity of the membranes in which these chemicals accumulate is essential to proper function of the cells and communication between cells. The organochlorines can interact with the membranes to alter fluidity properties and disrupt membrane protein function.

Recent findings in our laboratory 2,3 have indicated that CFS patients can have significantly higher levels of serum DDT compared with control subjects. In addition, DDE and HCB levels correlated with changes in blood cell parameters such as red cell distribution width and hemoglobin content. Exploration of the early literature revealed interesting associations of pesticide usage and viral activities, as well as an association of DDT with substantial alterations in metabolic homeostasis.

1. Holmes, G.P., Kaplan, J.E., Gantz, N.M. et al (1988) Chronic fatigue syndrome: a working case definition. Ann Intern. Med. 108, 387- 389.

2. Dunstan RH, Donohoe M, Taylor W, et al. A preliminary investigation of chlorinated hydrocarbons and chronic fatigue syndrome.. Med J Aus 1995; 163:294-297.

3. Dunstan RH, Roberts TK, Donohoe M, McGregor NR, Hope D, Taylor WG, Watkins JA, Murdoch RN & Butt H (1996) Bioaccumulated chlorinated hydrocarbons and red/white blood cell


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