M.E. In A Nut Shell By Dr Dowsett

When I saw Dr Dowsett In September 1994 she gave me the following notes
to accompany her chat with me. I think they are fairly self-explainitory so
I typed or OCR’ed the document for someone a long while a go. I have not included
most of the Pictures because I sent it in e-mail. I would tidy the document
up but I am not sure Dr Dowsett would want it on the Internet so I will
leave it as is for now and see what happens. If you have any questions please
ask me.


ME is not a new disease, but has been recognisable throughout history
under different names and in a variety of different guises. E.g.

  • 1750 (UK) "The little fever" – Dr Richard Manningham
  • 1869 (UK) "Neurashenia" – Dr Beard, Dr Wier Mitchell
  • 1934 (USA) "Atypical Polio" (Staff of Los Angeles General
  • 1948 (Iceland) "Akureyri Disease" (Staff and pupils of central
    High school)
  • Epidemics of ME in hospitals and schools have been a striking new feature
    in the 20th century.


    The failure of the 1953 polio epidemic in Iceland to spread into Populations
    previously affected by ME in 1948, indicated:- (a) Competition between
    the polio virus and the agent of ME for the sane receptor Sites in the
    bowel (b) That the agent of ME could persist in the body for 5 years.

    Technical advances since 1950 such as Electron Microscopy and detection
    of minute quantities of virus genetic material in muscle indicate that
    ME arises as a complication following infection by one of the 68 viruses
    comprising the Enterovirus Group (Polio. Coxsackie A & B viruses, Echo
    viruses etc.). The routes of spread, social and geographical incidence
    of all viruses in the group are similar. Small children in whom symptoms
    are usually trivial or absent, are the main reservoir from which health
    care staff, schools and parents become infected. Polluted food, water,
    lack of sanitation and previous unfamiliarity with the viruses circulating
    account for travel and holiday associated with ME.


    The introduction of sanitation (running water and WC’s) into the homes
    of all classes in society, interrupted the natural spread of these viruses
    during early childhood which had been going on since time immemorial and
    which afforded life long natural immunity at the small expense of a very
    occasional childhood complication (e.g. "infantile paralysis"
    the former name for poliomyelitis). If this primary infection is deferred
    until puberty or later, the greater susceptibility of the adult nervous
    system to damage, produces epidemics marked by serious complications in
    older age groups.


    The immune system is most active in early childhood. apart from large
    tonsils, adenoids and other lymphatic tissues, the thymus gland (situated
    in the chest) provides a comprehensive education for white blood cells
    including B cells which make antibodies and the T cells which provide a
    security task force against cancerous or virus infected cells. As puberty
    approaches (and nature assumes you have already done your "homework"
    on infection), these tissues shrink and the thymus gland disappears. However,
    the adult immune system though slimmer, is still able to mount an effective
    defence against virus infected cells. White blood cells (like a task force),
    are directed to surround and destroy the enemy.


    Evolutionary changes which allow viruses and host to co-exist without
    damage, are of mutual benefit and have developed in most infections which
    (unlike AIDS), maintain stable associations with the human race. For example,
    chicken pox which zips itself into the genetic code of spinal nerve cells
    may reappear later in the limited form of "shingles" if the immune
    system is depressed for any reason. Other viruses including those most
    commonly associated with ME, make mistakes during multiplication and deposit
    a poorly constructed variant or "mutant" virus in the cell.

    Vigilant T cells detect the abnormality but fail to recognise a clear
    target. The resulting battle between a normal but hyperactive immune system
    and an abnormal defectively constructed virus, leads to production of natural
    antiviral chemicals and to many of the most troublesome symptoms of ME,
    e.g.. recurrent ‘flu like’ symptoms and sore throats with or without glandular
    enlargement. Should the immune system be deflected from this struggle by
    a secondary infection, immunisation, immunosuppressive drug or severe stress,
    the battle will be unnecessarily prolonged and complicated by relapses.
    Secondary infections which severely depress the immune system (such as
    glandular fever, influenza or chicken pox) and which are easily diagnosed
    in the laboratory, may be given credit for causing the illness rather than
    producing a relapse. It is most important that the patient is given every
    form of mental, physical, medical and social support early in the illness
    to assist the normal progression of this immune struggle towards stability.

    What Problems May be caused by Persistent Viral infection in a Cell?

    ( 1 ) MUSCLE

    The activity of any mammalian cell is analogous to the function of a
    petrol engine, i.e. fuel (Food and oxygen) is transformed into a serviceab1e
    form of energy such as gas (ATP) by means of elector/chemical conversion
    from a battery (mitochondrion). In cells colonised by a defective but persistent
    virus, energy production is delayed. When this delay occurs in a muscle
    fibre, an alternative energy cycle (without oxygen) is employed ( in marathon
    running) to tide over the deficiency. This leads to overuse of Type II
    muscle Fibers and accumulation of lactic acid. Thus, a patient with ME
    who attempts minimal exercise early in the illness (before energy problems
    have begun to stabilise) or who over exercises later on, suffers unpleasant
    pain, cramps and involuntary twitching more appropriate to a marathon runner.

                                      0                /-
                                     -!-              /-   ___
                                      !              /  ! !
                                     /\                ___!
                        0           /  \             !       Aerobic
                        !-    _______________________!       Cycle
                        !_   !                               -> No
                       / !   !   "Second Wind"               Harmful
                      /  ____!                              Waste
                        !                                    Products
                   Anaerobic Cycle
                   -> Latic Acid in                                

    A Marathon Runner tops up with Anaerobic cycle – Latic Acid, Pain Cramp

    (2) BRAIN

    Recent research, using sophisticated brain scans as well as measurement
    of electrical, chemical and hormonal activity, demonstrates similar energy
    deficits in the brain and spinal nerve tracts of patients with ME.


    (a) Problems with spatial Left temporal lobe and orientation, word finding,
    adjacent nerve pathways. numerical calculations, taste and smell, orientation
    in time, ‘panic attacks’, fits.

    (b) Failure of brain to activate Reticular activating system itself
    resulting in fleeting in spinal nerve tracts. attention span and inability
    to stay awake.

    (c) Prolonged weakness (lasting General impairment of for days after
    a stressful glucose metabolosm in nerve event) cells owing to abnormal
    steroid response to stress (see E below)

    (d) Involuntary movements, In various locations:- Disturbances of mood,
    depletion of neuro- gastrointestinal motility, transmitters or their circulation
    and other breakdown products. ‘automatic’ activities. DOPAMINE SERATONIN

    (e) Failure to regulate and Hypothalamus and synchronise "biological
    pituitary gland. clocks" which control circadian (daily) rhythms,
    steroid response to stress, sleep, mood appetite, weight and growth, temperature
    and water regulation thyroid, sex and other hormones.

    (f) Disturbances of sensation, Spinal cord, cerebellum, balance and
    of sight and thalamus and sensory cortex hearing (not due to muscle weakness

    (g) Abnormal sensitivity to pain Decreased production of natural opioids.

    I recently noticed the following is not from ME In A Nutshell. I think it is
    the preferred leaflet of the originator of the Suffolk ME Association support
    group (Now sadly folded).

    Illness Management

    1 Accept that you are ill.

    Due to the negative publicity associated with M.E., When it is diagnosed
    people often deny that they are ill, saying "I’m not that type of
    person". First of all it is important to realise that the illness
    affects all sorts of people, and that in trying to fight the illness you
    are lessening your chances of recovery. Accepting that you are ill with
    M.E. is the first step to recovery.

    2 Accept that your lifestyle will change.

    None of us wants to change our lifestyle; to give up things which are
    important to us, work, social life, enjoying the children or giving up
    sport. The reality of M.E. is that some changes will have to be made to
    lifestyle and the amount of energy used on a daily basis by the individual
    with the illness. Without a planned change in lifestyle, recovery will
    be delayed.

    3 Begin to think about how much energy you use each day.

    When we talk about the use of energy, we are talking about the effort
    involved in getting out of bed; making breakfast; getting dressed; walking
    to the shops etc. Some activities take more energy than others, for example
    vacuum cleaning or washing and hanging clothes, ironing, cutting the grass
    or making a meal. It is clear that there are some things which are more
    difficult than others to stop doing or cut down on. You must try and cut
    out as many unimportant things as possible.

    4 Try and balance activity levels with rest.

    It is very important to view your activity level as a balancing act;
    too much is bad for you, too little is also bad for you. Each individual
    has to find the level of activity and rest which is right for them, this
    balance will change during the course of the illness. Trial and error is
    involved in the process, with some set back inevitable.

    5 Begin to listen to and understand messages from your body.

    We are all educated to push ourselves to achieve goals throughout our
    lives. This is not a useful philosophy when dealing with M.E. You can not
    fight the illness and win. Struggling on is likely to result in the illness
    becoming chronic. Begin to listen to the signals your body gives you. Help
    it to recover by understanding its (temporary) limitations.

    6 Don’t feel guilty about relaxing.

    Relaxing is a difficult thing to do properly. Whenever you feel the need to
    relax there are key things to keep in your mind. Lie down. Close your eyes.
    Help your muscles to ease. By doing so you are helping your body to recover.
    Don’t feel guilty about doing nothing. All the things you have to do can wait.
    If you were confined to bed they would have to wait in any case.

    7 Keep your sanity

    In any illness you can expect to experience anger, doubt, frustration
    and feelings of despair and depression. These feelings form part of an
    expected reaction to an illness which has seriously interrupted your life.
    By acknowledging the existence of these emotions, it is important to know
    that these feelings are shared by many people with this and any other long
    term illness, and by many carers of people who are ill. Don’t be afraid
    to discuss these problems with your doctor.

    8 Motivation is crucial

    It is difficult to deal with all the pressures of being unwell for more
    than a couple of months. With M.E. you are likely to have many disappointments
    during the course of your recovery. It is very important that you realise
    this fact and so, by understanding the nature of the recovery process,
    you can anticipate the disappointments, and equally, months of well being.
    When you are feeling good, it is important that you fight the urge to make
    up for lost time. To do so is likely to lead to problems. Try to maintain
    a gradual recovery process by moderating your activity expenditure. Later
    on you could try gradually pushing back the boundaries and slowly increase
    the level and extent of your activities.

    9 Monitoring progress

    Progress at best can be a slow process. It can be helpful to keep a
    diary of how well you feel in any given day. By doing this you can keep
    a record over a longer period of time which will accurately reflect the
    progress that you make.