AUG 05, 2017 09:38 AM PDT

Identifying Markers of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Severity

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

People that suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome might feel some relief just knowing that biomarkers have now been associated with this mysterious illness. Also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis, there is no cure for ME/CFS and there are few treatment options, none of which are reliably effective. A new report published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has now connected the illness with 17 proteins that act as messengers for the immune system, cytokines.

Chronic fatigue is much worse than just being very tired. / Credit: Freepublicdomainpictures

This research suggests that inflammation has a role in the disorder, which can become a chronic condition. Performed by scientists at Stanford University, the diagnosis and characterization of ME/CFS may now be easier, and people no longer have to doubt whether it is a real condition.

"There's been a great deal of controversy and confusion surrounding ME/CFS - even whether it is an actual disease," noted the senior author of the work, Dr. Mark Davis, the Director of Stanford's Institute for Immunity, Transplantation, and Infection. "Our findings show clearly that it's an inflammatory disease and provide a solid basis for a diagnostic blood test."

ME/CFS can flare in the teenage years, and come back when a person is in their 30’s, said the researchers. It impacts over 1 million individuals in the United States alone, and more women than men are affected. 

"Chronic fatigue syndrome can turn a life of productive activity into one of dependency and desolation," commented the lead author of the report, Dr. Jose Montoya, a Professor of Infectious Diseases. While some individuals get over the illness in a year or so without treatment, other are sick for decades.

Rest doesn’t relieve the extreme tiredness brought on by the disease, and more health problems can develop. Often, people end up having flu-like symptoms. They can go on to experience diarrhea, constipation, heart dysfunction, or muscle pain. The variation and range of symptoms can confound diagnosis.

"I have seen the horrors of this disease, multiplied by hundreds of patients," Montoya said. "It's been observed and talked about for 35 years now, sometimes with the onus of being described as a psychological condition. But chronic fatigue syndrome is by no means a figment of the imagination. This is real."

For this study, blood samples from 192 ME/CFS patients with varying degrees of disease severity and 392 healthy people were assessed. The levels of 51 cytokines were assayed. 17 of those were linked to how bad the disease was, while 13 o the cytokines promote inflammation - exacerbating the illness. The findings are outlined in the video.

Women carry one of those proteins more often than men, which could explain why they get the disease more. This new work can hopefully bring help to people long-suffering with little relief.

"For decades, the 'case vs. healthy controls' study design has served well to advance our understanding of many diseases," Montoya explained. "However, it's possible that for certain pathologies in humans, analysis by disease severity or duration would be likely to provide further insights."

NPR reports that a major study evaluating the effect of an anti-inflammatory drug on ME/CFS is underway in Norway. The drug, rituximab, is already used to treat people with some auto-immune disorders.


Sources: UPI, NPR, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on 28 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 60 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
AUG 06, 2018
Genetics & Genomics
AUG 06, 2018
Mystery Solved: Modern Pygmies not Related to Ancient Ones
The isolation of islands can have a powerful effect on the genetics of the residents....
AUG 19, 2018
AUG 19, 2018
CRISPR Technology Seeks To Eliminate Genetic Diseases
Researchers at the University of Illinois have adapted to new CRISPR gene-editing technology that causes the cell's internal machinery to skip over a s...
SEP 15, 2018
SEP 15, 2018
Researchers Surprised to Find Bacteria That Make Electricity in the Human Gut
It seems that many microbes, including strains in the human gut that are potentially pathogenic, can generate electricity....
OCT 04, 2018
OCT 04, 2018
Zebrafish as Metastatic Cancer Model
Another Koch Institute Image Award winner from 2018 is presented in this video from MIT....
OCT 16, 2018
Genetics & Genomics
OCT 16, 2018
Lab-grown Neurons Help Uncover the Genetic Changes Underlying Mental Illness
Developing therapeutics that will effectively relieve mental illness means understanding what is causing those disorders in the first place....
OCT 18, 2018
Genetics & Genomics
OCT 18, 2018
Expanding the List of Genes That Cause Multiple Sclerosis
For many years, researchers have been searching for the genetic influences that affect the development of MS....
Loading Comments...