People With Chronic Fatigue May Be Fighting ‘Hibernation’

[Health ★★★]


(P1) Chronic fatigue syndrome is a debilitating but still-mysterious ailment often marked by long-term fatigue, pain, and memory loss. But symptoms of CFS, or myalgic encephalomyelitis, vary considerably and no cause has been determined or diagnostic test developed, leading to the widespread notion that patients are dealing with a mental, rather than physical, illness, notes Pacific Standard.

(P2) Now a study out of the University of California at San Diego published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences could change that in a big way. As the Washington Post explains, the research suggests that the bodies of those with CFS have gone into a hibernation of sorts. And while hibernation can be of great benefit to creatures in the wild, it has awful effects in humans.

(P3) The scientists found that those with the syndrome have lower levels of metabolites, defined by PS as “the waste products of chemical reactions inside cells.” The resulting “metabolic signature” was strikingly similar to animals in hibernation mode, suggesting that patients’ cells went into defensive mode to ward off trouble and never quite came out of it. One professor out of Stanford is so impressed by the potential “game changer” that he’s collaborating with other scientists to try to replicate the findings in a larger study. “What they found is that there may be an ancient pathway, and maybe in humans, it’s not working very well,” he tells the Post. It holds the promise of a diagnostic test and treatment in the foreseeable future.

WORDS: 249


VOCABULARY: debilitating, hibernation, metabolites, ward off, game changer, replicate


If you found the passage difficult to read or had problems understanding specific words or idiomatic expressions, please discuss them with your tutor. The following discussion questions should be answered in your own words and with your own arguments.

  1. Briefly, summarize the content of the article in your own words.
  2. Do you ever get fatigued? Why or why not?
  3. What are some other things can be warded off?
  4. In your opinion do you think CFS is a mental or physical illness? Why?


  1. What is another name for CFS?
  2. Going into hibernation is good for animals and people. (T or F)
  3. Which publication contains research by a university in San Diego, California?
  4. People with CFS have a decreased level of what?
  5. A diagnostic exam and a remedy are possible in the not too distant future. (T or F)


What do the following expressions or phrases mean

  • often marked (P1)
  • of sorts (P2)
  • strikingly similar (P3)
  • foreseeable future (P3)

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Image source: by “unknown”

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