Tag Archives: ME/CFS

Ciprofloxacin Depletes Exosomal DNA

Journal of Extracellular Vesicles, “Biological properties of extracellular vesicles and their physiological functions”

The study, “Antibiotic-induced release of small extracellular vesicles (exosomes) with surface-associated DNA” published in Nature, found that, “ciprofloxacin induced the release of both DNA (mitochondrial and chromosomal sequences) and DNA-binding proteins on the exofacial surfaces of small extracellular vesicles referred to in this paper as exosomes.” And, “Our results reveal for the first time that prolonged low-dose ciprofloxacin exposure leads to the release of DNA associated with the external surface of exosomes.”

In the discussion section of “Antibiotic-induced release of small extracellular vesicles (exosomes) with surface-associated DNA” the authors expand on their findings:

“Exposure of Jurkat cells to ciprofloxacin has been shown to induce oxidative stress, production of reactive oxygen species, mitochondrial dysfunction, inhibition of the respiratory chain and decrease of mitochondrial membrane potential leading to mitophagy47. Our MS analysis has also confirmed the above biological processes in Jurkat cells. Importantly, the presence of ciprofloxacin has been reported to lead to the loss of mtDNA28, 29 and an aneuploidy caused by the genotoxic stress of Jurkat cells30, 48. Genotoxic stress response has been shown to induce the release of nucleosomes by leukemic myeloid cells49. In the present study, mitochondrial damage of ciprofloxacin-exposed Jurkat cells has been evidenced by the abundance of mtDNA, and the nucleoid protein FEN1, as well as numerous other mitochondrial proteins in the secreted vesicles. Ciprofloxacin inhibits both the bacterial DNA gyrase and the mammalian topoisomerase II enzymes responsible for proper DNA replication50. Given that ciprofloxacin mainly inhibits the mitochondrial isoform of mammalian topoisomerase II29, its presence induces mtDNA fragmentation as well as subsequent gradual decrease in mtDNA content29.”

And also note that:

“We found that the exosomal DNA release-inducing effect was not solely observed in the case of Jurkat cells as we also detected ciprofloxacin-induced release of exofacial EV DNA in the case of the pancreatic cancer cell line MiaPaCa. These results demonstrate that DNA-associated EVs may be released from various types of cells after long-term ciprofloxacin exposure.”

These findings are interesting, and I think consequential and explanatory.

But, I am guessing that most people reading this need some more information about what the excerpts above mean. I know I did (and I had to read it about five times).

First, understanding “Antibiotic-induced release of small extracellular vesicles (exosomes) with surface-associated DNA” requires a little knowledge of what extracellular vesicles and exosomes are.

Extracellular vesicles (EVs) are “lipid bilayer-delimited particles that are naturally released from a cell and, unlike a cell, cannot replicate. EVs range in diameter from near the size of the smallest physically possible unilamellar liposome (around 20-30 nanometers) to as large as 10 microns or more, although the vast majority of EVs are smaller than 200 nm. They carry a cargo of proteins, nucleic acids, lipids, metabolites, and even organelles from the parent cell. Most cells that have been studied to date are thought to release EVs, including some bacterial, fungal, and plant cells that are surrounded by cell walls. A wide variety of EV subtypes have been proposed, defined variously by size, biogenesis pathway, cargo, cellular source, and function, leading to a historically heterogenous nomenclature including terms like exosomes and ectosomes.” (Source)

Exosomes are a subtype of extracellular vesicles. “Exosomes are best defined as extracellular vesicles that are released from cells upon fusion of an intermediate endocytic compartment, the multivesicular body (MVB), with the plasma membrane.” (Source) More information (that’s only basic if you have a heavy science background) about exosomes can be found in “Q&A: What are exosomes, exactly?

Basically, they’re molecules secreted from cells that affect other cells (sometimes positively, sometimes negatively).

Here’s a series of videos that give a really high-level, shiny and high-production-value explanation of exosomes and extracellular vesicles:

Additionally, here are some interesting tidbits about extracellular vesicles (EVs) and exosomes gathered from various articles:

“In the past decade, extracellular vesicles (EVs) have been recognized as potent vehicles of intercellular communication, both in prokaryotes and eukaryotes. This is due to their capacity to transfer proteins, lipids and nucleic acids, thereby influencing various physiological and pathological functions of both recipient and parent cells. While intensive investigation has targeted the role of EVs in different pathological processes, for example, in cancer and autoimmune diseases, the EV-mediated maintenance of homeostasis and the regulation of physiological functions have remained less explored.” (Source)

“EVs alone regulated the expression of numerous genes related to inflammation and signaling.” (Source)

“EVs are carriers of pathogen-associated and damage-associated molecular patterns, cytokines, autoantigens and tissue-degrading enzymes. In addition to a possible role in the pathogenesis of a number of inflammatory conditions, such as infections and autoimmune diseases, EVs, including microvesicles (also known as microparticles), exosomes and apoptotic vesicles, have therapeutic potential and might be used as biomarkers for inflammatory diseases.” (Source)

“another significant role of EVs has emerged in the removal of unwanted molecular material as a means for cell maintenance.” (Source)

“This report is the first show that numbers of blood-derived EVs are elevated in patients suffering from CFS/ME, indicating their potential involvement in disease pathogenesis. This promising finding may not only provide insights into the mechanisms involved in the disease but also shows that EVs may be useful for early diagnosis of illness. Moreover, isolation of circulating EVs coupled to our prototype for their detection by LFIA may constitute a powerful diagnostic tool, which can be performed in a single step and in minutes. We concluded that EVs may play a critical role in CFS/ME. Studies with larger sample size, outcome measures and different study designs (i.e. cross-sectional vs. longitudinal cohorts) are now urgently needed. These studies should stratify subgroups according to illness onset and progression, and assess patients at baseline and following induction of post-exertional malaise (PEM), using the 2-day cardiopulmonary exercise test (CPET).” (Source)

“Mast cells, being capable of both degranulation and subsequent recovery, have recently attracted substantial attention as also being rich sources of secreted extracellular vesicles (including exosomes and microvesicles).” (Source)

Both extracellular vesicles and exosomes contribute to processes that are related to many illnesses (including multi-symptom chronic illnesses like ME/CFS and autoimmune diseases, as well as cancer), as well as some of the processes behind those diseases such as inflammation, mast cell activation, cellular signaling and communication, etc. Neither extracellular vessicles nor exosomes are bad though – they are neither good nor bad. They are a natural function, and their relationship to these disease processes may be to spread the disease or prevent the disease, depending on many more factors than I can even begin to fathom.

I surmise and assume though, that removal and depletion of DNA from exosomes, is not a healthy or productive thing to do. And as this study showed, ciprofloxacin, and probably other fluoroquinolones, remove/deplete DNA from exosomes.

Can the removal of DNA from exosomes trigger inflammation? Can the depletion of DNA from exosomes change the inter-cellular communication in ways that trigger illnesses? Extracellular vesicles and exosomes are involved with the immune system, so can depletion of DNA from exosomes trigger immune dysregulation or autoimmune diseases? In depleting DNA from exosomes, does ciprofloxacin trigger disease? We know that ciprofloxacin can trigger multi-symptom chronic illness – is the depletion of exosomal DNA the mechanism through which it “floxes” people?

I don’t know the answers to those questions, and I doubt that the scientists who know much more about cellular processes than I do know those answers either. But “Antibiotic-induced release of small extracellular vesicles (exosomes) with surface-associated DNA” raises some really interesting questions, and provides some interesting and insightful links for those of us who are exploring what occurs in the body of a “floxed” person.

Sources*:

Nature, “Antibiotic-induced release of small extracellular vesicles (exosomes) with surface-associated DNA

BMC Biology, “Q&A: What are exosomes, exactly?

Journal of Extracellular Vesicles, “Biological properties of extracellular vesicles and their physiological functions

Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences, “Critical role of extracellular vesicles in modulating the cellular effects of cytokines.

Nature Reviews. Rheumatology., “Emerging role of extracellular vesicles in inflammatory diseases.

Journal of Extracellular Vesicles, “Circulating extracellular vesicles as potential biomarkers in chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis: an exploratory pilot study

Seminars in Cell and Developmental Biology, “Mast cell secretome: Soluble and vesicular components.

*I found these sources through the post “Nature’s Quinolones: The 4Qs” on FluoroquinoloneThyroid.com – you should check it out – it’s great.

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Are Fluoroquinolones Causing Connective Tissue Disorders that are Leading to ME/CFS?

The symptoms of fluoroquinolone toxicity often mimic those of ME/CFS (Myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome). Many people suffering from fluoroquinolone toxicity experience debilitating fatigue, and some are bed-bound and permanently disabled from this symptom, along with all the others that come along with fluoroquinolone toxicity. Both fluoroquinolone toxicity and ME/CFS are multi-symptom, chronic syndromes that are poorly understood and often disregarded by those in the medical community. Research into the mechanisms behind both fluoroquinolone toxicity and ME/CFS show that mitochondria (the energy centers of our cells) are likely related to both diseases, and so is autonomic nervous system dysfunction, mast cell activation, metabolomics, epigenetics, immune system dysfunction, hormonal imbalances, and other areas of human biology. Both fluoroquinolone toxicity and ME/CFS also have significant overlap with other diseases such as Ehlers-Danlos syndromes (EDS), Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), and fibromyalgia.

The similarities between fluoroquinolone toxicity and ME/CFS may mean that they have a similar root mechanism…. or they may not. The root cause of fluoroquinolone toxicity is, of course, fluoroquinolones. (The mechanism behind fluoroquinolone toxicity is much more complex and the answer to the question of HOW fluoroquinolones hurt people is still being uncovered.) Most people who have ME/CFS don’t report that their symptoms started with fluoroquinolone exposure (though there is almost certainly some overlap, and there are likely some people who have been diagnosed with ME/CFS whose disease started with a fluoroquinolone prescription). There seem to be a variety of triggers that set off ME/CFS in previously healthy individuals, including, but not limited to, mold exposure and sensitivity, and exposure to a viral infection that the body never fully recovers from.

While it is possible that there are many cases of ME/CFS that were brought on by fluoroquinolones, and thus are “actually” fluoroquinolone toxicity (labels, shmables), it is also possible that both diseases/syndromes have a similar underlying mechanism despite different causes, and it is also possible that though the symptoms and features of both diseases are similar, they are actually different on a mechanistic and/or cellular level.

Though the possibilities for differences between fluoroquinolone toxicity and ME/CFS are potentially significant, the similarities are obvious, and it is likely that research that helps ME/CFS sufferers will help fluoroquinolone toxicity sufferers.

There is a theory about the mechanism behind ME/CFS that has recently come to my attention that could, potentially, tie it more directly to fluoroquinolone toxicity. The theory, in a nutshell, is this:

Some people with ME/CFS have an underlying predisposition for EDS, and thus collagen synthesis is disordered and connective tissues are weakened. The ligaments of the craniocervical junction (where your skull meets your first vertebra) become weak and this leads to craniocervical instability (CCI) and atlantoaxial instability (AAI) (together, CCI/AAI). When people suffer from CCI/AAI their neck ligaments don’t sufficiently hold up their head and their brain stems are compressed into their spines. This causes many symptoms of ME/CFS. (I’m not sure exactly how – ask someone who has done far more research into ME/CFS and/or CCI/AAI than me.)

You can read about how CCI/AAI relates to ME/CFS in these two links:

  1. MEchanical Basis
  2. A new diagnosis to add to the list: I have craniocervical and atlantoaxial instability

How does this relate to fluoroquinlones?

It is well known that fluoroquinolone antibiotics (Cipro/ciprofloxacin, Levaquin/levofloxacin, Avelox/moxifloxacin, Floxin/ofloxacin, and a few others) damage connective tissues–including musculoskeletal connective tissues like tendons, cartilage, bone, and muscle, as well as other connective tissues such as ocular tissue (including the retina)eardrums, and cardiac/heart tissue. Multiple studies have found that fluoroquinolones are toxic and damaging to connective tissues. Given the wide differences in tissues that fluoroquinolones have been shown to deleteriously affect–from cartilage to cardiac tissue–it is reasonable to assert that they damage all connective tissues throughout the body. (Read any of the articles in the citations listed below for information about how fluoroquinolones damage connective tissues.)

Given that fluoroquinolones damage connective tissues (probably all connective tissues – see links below), it is possible that they weaken the tendons of the neck and thus lead to CCI/AAI. CCI/AAI then leads to multi-symptom chronic illness including all the symptoms of ME/CFS (which are too numerous to count).

This weakening of tendons and subsequent CCI/AAI likely occurs more often in people with underlying connective tissue disorders like EDS. I suspect (though I have no proof of this) that there are many kinds of EDS that have not yet been identified, and that more people have the genes for a variation of EDS than those who can currently be diagnosed with the disease. It’s also possible that a genetic predisposition toward EDS is not necessary for fluoroquinolones to cause extensive connective tissue damage, and that they do so in everyone who is exposed to them (at varying levels, of course). Fluoroquinolones have been shown to damage dog and rat connective tissues, especially tendons, and human connective tissues exposed to fluoroquinolones have also shown extensive damage both in-vitro and through analysis of people exposed to fluoroquinolones. I have a hard time believing that all the rats, puppies, and people whose tissues were sampled all had underlying EDS prior to their tissues being destroyed by fluoroquinolones. However, it’s possible that underlying genetic predispositions, including those for EDS, determine how severely people are affected by fluoroquinolones. More research is, of course, needed.

Are fluoroquinolones causing CCI/AAI? And is CCI/AAI leading to ME/CFS? Given the large number of studies showing that fluoroquinolones destroy connective tissues and interfere with collagen synthesis, it’s quite plausible (even likely) that they cause CCI/AAI. How, and if, CCI/AAI is connected with ME/CFS is another question. But given the experiences of the authors of MEchanical Basis and A new diagnosis to add to the list: I have craniocervical and atlantoaxial instability, it’s a possibility that is certainly worth exploring.

 

Sources for the assertion that fluoroquinolones cause connective tissue destruction and disordered collagen synthesis:

Musculoskeletal Complications of Fluoroquinolones: Guidelines and Precautions for Usage in the Athletic Population. Hall, Mederic M. et al. PM&R , Volume 3 , Issue 2 , 132 – 142

Etminan M, Forooghian F, Brophy JM, Bird ST, Maberley D. Oral Fluoroquinolones and the Risk of Retinal Detachment. JAMA. 2012;307(13):1414-1419. doi:10.1001/jama.2012.383

Tsai WC, Hsu CC, Chen CP, et al. Ciprofloxacin up-regulates tendon cells to express matrix metalloproteinase-2 with degradation of type I collagen. J Orthop Res. 2011;29(1):67-73

Lee C, Lee MG, Chen Y, Lee S, Chen Y, Chen S, Chang S. Risk of Aortic Dissection and Aortic Aneurysm in Patients Taking Oral Fluoroquinolone. JAMA Intern Med. 2015;175(11):1839-1847. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2015.5389

Kaleagasioglu F, Olcay E. Fluoroquinolone-induced tendinopathy: etiology and preventive measures. Tohoku J Exp Med. 2012;226(4):251-258.

Adel Alrwisan, Patrick J. Antonelli, Almut G. Winterstein; Quinolone Ear Drops After Tympanostomy Tubes and the Risk of Eardrum Perforation: A Retrospective Cohort Study. Clin Infect Dis 2017; 64 (8): 1052-1058. doi: 10.1093/cid/cix032

Review of Through the Shadowlands

I just finished reading Through the Shadowlands: A Science Writer’s Odyssey into an Illness Science Doesn’t Understand by Julie Rehmeyer. It’s a memoir about the author’s journey through Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS). It’s a beautifully written, thoughtful, insightful look at ME/CFS, and how Rehmeyer got through the harrowing illness and regained her health.

Many floxies deal with horrible, intractable fatigue, and suffer from ME/CFS after getting poisoned by Cipro, Levaquin, Avelox, or other fluoroquinolones. I experienced some fatigue while going through fluoroquinolone toxicity, but I never considered myself to be afflicted with ME/CFS (my fatigue episodes passed relatively quickly–thank God). However, the bouts of fatigue I had were frightening, and going through my own “mysterious illness” gave me empathy for others dealing with under-acknowledged diseases. I became facebook friends with several people in the ME/CFS community, and I gained an even greater appreciation for the severity of ME/CFS and the strength it takes to endure it. It truly is a horrific disease, and the horror of it is only compounded by the lack of acknowledgement it receives.

I hope that Rehmeyer’s book brings attention to ME/CFS, and that people recognize how severe and devastating the disease truly is. And I hope that recognition of ME/CFS brings attention to all multi-symptom, chronic, mysterious illnesses that “can’t be reduced to tidy pathologies or a uniform set of symptoms.” These illnesses are real–they are not “just in your head,” and they are less “rare” than people would like to acknowledge. Yet these illnesses are systematically overlooked because they are too complex to form a single hypothesis around. Autoimmune diseases, neurodegenerative diseases, autonomic nervous system diseases, mitochondrial dysfunction diseases, fibromyalgia, ME/CFS, POTS, EDS, and, of course, iatrogenic diseases like fluoroquinolone toxicity, are complex and multifaceted, and they affect every part of the body and every individual differently. They’re difficult to study, but studying them is important. Ignoring them, and pretending that they don’t exist, isn’t helpful to anyone.

Some parts of Through the Shadowlands: A Science Writer’s Odyssey into an Illness Science Doesn’t Understand really resonated with me, and reminded me of my experience with fluoroquinolone toxicity. I’m going to point them out here, along with comments, with the hope that they will trigger in you some of the recognition they triggered in me.

In the epilogue, Rehmeyer states:

“Although I’ve certainly worked hard to improve my health as I have, I also want to be clear: I got lucky. I could have done everything I did and still be desperately ill. I think I get some credit for my improvement, but only some. A big part of it is simple good fortune.”

Yup. I’ve been meaning to write a post about the luck aspect of recovery for a while. Why did I recover from fluoroquinolone toxicity when others don’t? Luck. Pure, simple, unfair, ridiculous, stupid luck. I got lucky. I was able to get into a spiral of health. Early in Through the Shadowlands, Rehmeyer says that health and illness are like valleys between hills, and your state of being is like a marble (or boulder–depending on how big your metaphorical valleys are) that is trapped in that valley. It’s easy to stay in the valley–whether that be the health valley or the illness valley. It’s difficult to push yourself up a hill into the other valley. (Hopefully I’m remembering the metaphor roughly correctly–sorry if not.) I was able to get over that hill, into the valley of health, and I was able to do it without near as much suffering as others. Why? Luck. I’m not a better person, nor did I do more things correctly. I was just luckier.

In chapter 19: Moldy Science, Rehmeyer states:

“Learning all this, I felt as if my brain were quietly exploding. A scientific organization put out a statement that was contrary to science, and scientists couldn’t get it removed for 12 years! How could that happen?

And if respected organizations could sow doubt about whether mold is a significant risk factor for asthma–a link that had been observed in the very first textbook on asthma ever written, in 1698–what hope did I have that science would come to understand my weird illness?”

Science is political. You knew that, right? It’s not supposed to be, but it is, so don’t think it’s not.

Just as there have been scientists silenced about the dangers of mold for decades, there are scientists who recognized that topoisomerase interrupting drugs, like fluoroquinolones, are a very bad idea, and are quite harmful to mitochondrial and bacterial DNA. Perhaps messing with our mitochondrial and bacterial DNA and RNA replication enzymes isn’t a particularly good idea. But if a scientist was to say something as brazen as that he or she would be admonished, and maybe even punished.

Throughout Through the Shadowlands, Rehmeyer seems to struggle with her worldview. Is she a scientist who only does treatments that are backed up by placebo controlled trials, or is she a person who is willing to try anything to get better, even if it has a woo-woo component to it? If she tries the alternative treatments, can she still consider herself to be a skeptical scientist? But if science is failing her, and her fellow ME/CFS sufferers, does it deserve the credence and weight she gives it? After a significant struggle, Rehmeyer seems to settle on the approach that depends more on evidence gathered from her personal experience than evidence gathered in labs. She opens herself up to alternative treatments, and reluctantly finds that they help her. She seems to long for evidence of why they help her, and to struggle with the possibility that they are just placebos. At the end of the book, it seems that Rehmeyer stops trying to find identity in the science vs. alternative medicine paradigm, and she settles into a worldview that identifies her as a person with ME/CFS, who has overcome the disease, and who is now part of that tribe. The scientist and woo-woo tribes are less significant, what is significant is her tribe of fellow sufferers (and her family and other loved ones).

In chapter 11: An Unlikely Hypothesis, Rehmeyer writes about the facebook community of fellow ME/CFS sufferers. She states:

“My attitude toward my fellow patients had already started to soften as I had been exploring the forum more, and on Facebook, I found them endearing, and even inspiring. I saw how they turned to one another not just for advice as on the forum, but for a community and support and a social life after they’d been abandoned by so much of the world.”

I find the floxie community, largely found on facebook, to be incredibly inspiring. They are brave, thoughtful, generous, wonderful people, and I am honored to be among them. I also appreciate the other chronic illness communities, including the ME/CFS community, the POTS community, the floxie community, the other pharma-injured community, the fibromyalgia community, etc. All of these communities of people with chronic, poorly understood diseases are wonderfully supportive and strong, and they are appreciated.

Much of Through the Shadowlands felt familiar. I knew who many of the people were that Rehmeyer wrote about, even when she didn’t refer to them by name. I felt as if I was reading about the journey of a friend (or, at least a friend of a friend), and in some ways, I was. The community of people affected by mysterious, chronic, under-recognized illnesses is small, and we have many fights in common. We’re in this together–fighting for recognition, and cures. If Through the Shadowlands helps those suffering with ME/CFS to gain recognition and acknowledgement, perhaps it will hep floxies and others living with mysterious illnesses too.

I recommend that you read Through the Shadowlands. It’s a good book. It’s a well-written, insightful, thoughtful memoir, and I suspect that it will resonate with anyone suffering from a mysterious illness.

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