The mysterious sickness believed to affect at least a million people in the U.S called Myalgic Encephalomyelitis / Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS) often shows no signs in diagnostic laboratory tests. This condition wonders many patients and doctors but now shows possibilities of being measured.
This was revealed through research findings released by Stanford University on Monday 31st of July 2017 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The possibility of the sickness being diagnosed may pave the way to the first-ever treatment of the syndrome that has been long-sought by many.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome can be seen as extreme exhaustion that sleep cannot relieve, flu-like symptoms, brain-fog, muscle pain, and many other physical symptoms that worsen even with little exertion of effort. Many patients often mistake ME/CFS as simple tiredness or depression. The symptoms can sometimes be mild but could go extremely severe completely confining about a quarter of patients to bed.
The research was able to link the ME/CFS to the variation in certain cytokines, immune-signaling proteins, that track with illness severity. The scientists recommend using the link in severity in gradation rather than just noting the positive or negative results in finding biological markers that points to the illness.
Stanford Researches conducted a study with 192 ME/CFS patients and 392 healthy controls matched for age and gender. 2 out of 51 cytokines were found to be different in the total concentrations when probed under refined fluorescence-based testing.
Mild and severe ME/CFS symptoms show variations in the 17 levels of cytokines. 13 of which promotes inflammation which suggests that it greatly causes the illness because of the symptoms found in the patients and results derived from other studies. The study also disclosed that the higher the blood level, the worse the symptoms would be.
Dr. Jose Montoya, professor of infectious diseases at Stanford led the research states that contrary to the usual idea that the patients are just making up their sickness, the data now proves that with careful research and advanced technology, new helpful information could be greatly obtained. He claims that the reason the illness goes undetectable is that the tests performed were not measuring the right thing.
Harvard internist and epidemiologist Dr. Anthony L. Komaroff wrote a commentary in support of the study. In the commentary he noted that speculations from many medicals scientists in the past years suspected that ME/CFS is caused by cytokines. Cytokines are molecules in our immune system that fight unfamiliar invaders in the body.
Dr. Montoya asserted Inflammation is much more complicated to be measured by just common laboratory measures. These measures are Sedimentation rate which has nothing to do with ME/CFS and C-reactive protein which is also not linked to severity.
The Stanford Researchers are now developing to form a team that could be used commercially. Their job is mainly to perform tests for about 5 out of 17 cytokines. The test could engage the doctors to classify the patients according to severity for interpretation of results. This could lay the foundation to the diagnosis and monitor the patients’ response to treatment at the same time.
In publishing the study, Dr. Montoya prospects all drug companies and research teams to look into the subject. He hopes to get recommendations for inflammation drugs that could be used for the possibility of treating the disease with immune-modifying or anti-inflammatory therapy.
As if in response, it has been found out that a major drug trial is ongoing in Norway. The test is focused if the immune-modifying drug rituximab pacifies ME/CFS which showed positive results in some patients. The drug has also been confirmed to treat auto-immune diseases and non-Hodgkin lymphoma which is shown in one study as a one-of-a-kind cancer. It mostly occurs in older people with high level of ME/CFS.
Lately new studies are being conducted, some are privately funded. Komaroff mentions that the National Institutes of Health has conducted another study recently to unravel the essential causes of the condition. He hopes to find better ways of measuring and treating the illness to help people suffering from the disease.