Scientists in the United States say they have taken a step towards developing a possible diagnostic test for chronic fatigue syndrome, a condition characterized by exhaustion and other debilitating symptoms.
Stanford University School of Medicine researchers said a pilot study of 40 people, half of whom were healthy and half of them had a syndrome, showed that their potential biomarker test correctly identified those who were ill.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis or ME, is estimated to be about 2.5 million people in the United States and up to 17 million worldwide.
Symptoms include astounding fatigue, joint pain, headaches, and sleep problems. No cause or diagnosis has yet been established and the condition can force patients to stand on bed or at home.
The research, published in the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences on Monday, analyzed blood samples from test volunteers using a "nanoelectronic test" – a test that measures changes in small amounts of energy as a replacement for immune cell health and blood plasma.
Scientists "emphasized" blood samples with salt and then compared the reactions. The results showed that all blood samples from patients with CFS produce a clear spike, while samples of healthy controls remained relatively stable.
"We don't know exactly why cells and plasma behave in this way, or even what they do," said Ron Davis, professor of biochemistry and genetics who led the study.
"(But) we clearly see the difference in the way the process of healthy and chronic fatigue syndrome causes stress."
However, other experts who are not directly involved in this work have warned that its findings have shown that it is still far from finding a biomarker that can diagnose CFS and distinguish it from other conditions with similar symptoms.
Simon Wessely, chairman of psychiatry at King's Institute of Psychiatry College in London, psychiatry and neuroscience, who has been working with CFS patients for many years, said the study was the last of many attempts to find a biomarker for CFS, but could not solve it . two key questions:
“The first question is whether every biomarker can distinguish CFS patients from patients with other tedious diseases? And secondly, is it the measurement of the cause and not the consequence of the disease? "He said in an email message. "This study does not provide any evidence that is finally achieved."
Reporting Kate Kelland; Editing Mark Heinrich