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Adrienne Dellwo

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Breakthrough: What is Hydrogen Sulfide?

By May 30, 2009

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Recent major scientific breakthroughs in chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS or ME/CFS) blame the disease on a chemical called hydrogen sulfide.

Belgian researcher Dr. Kenny de Meirleir and his team say high levels of hydrogen sulfide are a major cause of ME/CFS and lead to a series of reactions in your body that leave cells devoid of oxygen and energy. (Read more about these discoveries.) But what is hydrogen sulfide?

Hydrogen Sulfide

Abbreviated as H2S, hydrogen sulfide is a naturally occurring toxic gas. You know that rotten egg smell associated with sulfur? That's hydrogen sulfide. It's released by decaying substances and as a result of certain industrial processes.

In your body, high H2S can damage multiple systems, including the central nervous system, the heart, and the liver. Much of the available information on H2S poisoning relates to inhalation in industrial settings, which can also damage the lungs.

According to the U.S. government's Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, chronic exposure can cause:

  • Low blood pressure
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Ataxia (poor coordination, staggering gait)
  • Eye-membrane inflammation
  • Chronic cough
  • Neurological symptoms
  • Psychological disorders

Nearly all of those symptoms are associated with ME/CFS.

Treating Hydrogen Sulfide Poisoning

Studies have shown that nitrite therapy, which is also a treatment for cyanide poisoning, can aid recovery from H2S poisoning due to inhalation. There's anecdotal evidence that hyperbaric oxygen therapy can help in more severe cases. However, it's not clear whether those are safe and effective treatments for ME/CFS.

Interesting Facts About Hydrogen Sulfide

  • In mice, H2S can induce hibernation.
  • H2S is partially responsible for the stench of rotten eggs, flatulence and sewage.
  • In the brain, at normal levels, H2S increases the response of NMDA receptors, which deal with glutamate.
  • H2S effects are similar to those of nitric oxide, which other researchers have linked to ME/CFS, fibromyalgia and Gulf War syndrome.

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May 30, 2009 at 10:55 am
(1) Glen says:

There has been a lot about hydrogen sulfide in the medical news recently. Here is an explanation of how it affects blood pressure…

Hydrogen sulfide is the most recently discovered member of a family of gasotransmitters, small molecules inside our bodies with important physiological functions.

Because gasotransmitters are common in mammals, these findings on the importance of hydrogen sulfide are thought to have broad applications to human diseases, such as diabetes and neurodegenerative diseases.

“Now that we know hydrogen sulfide’s role in regulating blood pressure, it may be possible to design drug therapies that enhance its formation as an alternative to the current methods of treatment for hypertension,” said Johns Hopkins neuroscientist Solomon H. Snyder, M.D., a co-author of the study detailed in the Oct. 24th issue of the journal Science.


May 30, 2009 at 7:41 pm
(2) Robert says:

Im not sure. How would Ampligen fit into this new theory. Could this finding have been why the FDA delayed the approval of this drug. The FDA spokesman at the CDC CFS conference said “as I have said many times before, one of the complexities of developing new drugs for cfs is that we don’t have any invitro or any animal models that will allow us to select the products that would be potentally effective for this condition. In other deseases there are models that allow companies to select models that would be worth while to be evaluated in those conditions and I think that CFS really challanges us because we don’t really have any modern model that allows us to select the products that would be potentially effective for this condition.” As I read more about Ampligen and CFS I get more confused. Right now I am courious if you still feel the same way about Ampligen and the need to approve this drug?

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