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To "lump" or to "split" the functional somatic syndromes: can infectious and emotional risk factors differentiate between the onset of chronic fatigue syndrome and irritable bowel syndrome?

To "lump" or to "split" the functional somatic syndromes: can infectious and emotional risk factors differentiate between the onset of chronic fatigue syndrome and irritable bowel syndrome?

Psychosomatic Medicine 68(3): 463-469

Recent academic debate has centered on whether functional somatic syndromes should be defined as separate entities or as one syndrome. The aim of this study was to investigate whether there may be significant differences in the etiology or precipitating factors associated with two common functional syndromes, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). We prospectively studied 592 patients with an acute episode of Campylobacter gastroenteritis and 243 with an acute episode of infectious mononucleosis who had no previous history of CFS or IBS. At the time of infection, patients completed a baseline questionnaire that measured their levels of distress using the Hospital Anxiety and Depression scale. At 3- and 6-month follow-up, they completed questionnaires to determine whether they met published diagnostic criteria for chronic fatigue (CF), CFS, and/or IBS. The odds of developing IBS were significantly greater post-Campylobacter than post-infectious mononucleosis at both 3- (odds ratio, 3.45 [95% confidence interval (CI), 1.75-6.67]) and 6- (2.22 [95% CI, 1.11-6.67]) month follow-up. In contrast, the odds for developing CF/CFS were significantly greater after infectious mononucleosis than after Campylobacter at 3 (2.77 [95% CI, 1.08-7.11]) but not 6 (1.48 [95% CI, 0.62-3.55]) months postinfection. Anxiety and depression were the strongest predictors of CF/CFS, whereas the nature of the infection was the strongest predictor of IBS. These results support the argument to distinguish between postinfectious IBS and CFS. The nature of the precipitating infection appears to be important, and premorbid levels of distress appear to be more strongly associated with CFS than IBS, particularly levels of depression.

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Accession: 050799272

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PMID: 16738080

DOI: 10.1097/01.psy.0000221384.07521.05

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