Researchers Develop Diagnostic Blood Test for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Researchers Develop Diagnostic Blood Test for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

A diagnostic blood test for chronic fatigue syndrome has been developed by researchers at Standford University School of Medicine that can identify biomarkers of the disease in plasma.

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), is a long-term illness that causes a range of different symptoms. In addition to extreme tiredness, symptoms can include sleep problems, IBS, unexplained pain, lymph node swelling, and heart, brain, and immune system problems. The condition affects approximately 2 million people in the United States.

CFS is difficult to diagnose as there is no specific diagnostic test that can be used to tell if a patient has the condition. Many of the symptoms of CFS can be caused by a wide range of different illnesses, so a CFS diagnosis can only be made after a barrage of tests have ruled out other possible causes of the symptoms and when symptoms do not improve on their own over time.

The speed at which a diagnosis is made could be shortened considerably thanks to research conducted at Stanford University School of Medicine. Researchers have devised a diagnostic blood test for chronic fatigue syndrome that can identify biomarkers of CFS with a high degree of accuracy.

A pilot study was conducted on 40 people; 20 of whom had been diagnosed with CFS based on their symptoms and 20 who were healthy. Using the blood test, all 20 patients diagnosed with CFS could be identified and none of the healthy patients were misdiagnosed as having CFS.

The test is based on the response of plasma and immune cells to stress. The researchers sent small currents into plasma samples, which induced a response by immune cells. When healthy cells are subjected to stress, there is little change in energy. However, patients with CFS differ.

The researchers suggest the immune cells of patients with CFS fail to process stress adequately and send out small electrical signals. Those nano-signals are detected using the researchers’ nanoelectronics assay and assessed using an AI-based algorithm that can rapidly detect spikes in the nano-signals.

What is not known is why the cells and plasma have an atypical response to stress, nor what causes the CFS, but the condition can now be detected.

The researchers are now expanding their study to see if the test is accurate in larger populations of patients. They also hope that their test can be used to assess a range of different therapeutic drugs to see which could be effective at treating CFS and restoring the healthy functions of plasma and immune cells.

The findings are detailed in the paper – A nanoelectronics-blood-based diagnostic biomarker for myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) – which was recently published in the journal Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences. DOI: doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1901274116

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