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Blood Test May Detect Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Saturday 18 May 2019


From the US National Institutes of Health:


Researchers have been working to develop a test to
diagnose ME/CFS, a complex, debilitating disease
that causes profound exhaustion and poor stamina.
(Photo: fizkes / iStock / Getty Images Plus)

Blood test may detect myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome

May 14, 2019

At a Glance

  • Researchers developed a blood test that, in a pilot study, accurately identified people with myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome.
  • If validated in larger studies, the assay could one day help diagnose the disease and enable researchers to test potential treatments.

Myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) is a complex, debilitating disease. People with ME/CFS experience at least six months of profound exhaustion and extremely poor stamina that doesn’t improve with rest. Other symptoms may include joint and muscle pain, sleep problems, tender lymph nodes, a sore throat, headaches, GI issues, and problems with thinking and cognition.

The cause of this disease is unknown. Sometimes it starts after a person has flu-like symptoms. Studies have suggested that infections, stress, or immune system changes may be involved.

One of the main characteristics of ME/CFS is that symptoms get worse within 12 to 24 hours following physical or mental exertion, which is known as post-exertional malaise. When you exert mental or physical energy, cells need to consume ATP, a small molecule that provides energy for cells to carry out their functions. Some studies have found that the ability to use ATP may be impaired in people with ME/CFS.

There are currently no diagnostic tests for ME/CFS. To test whether they could use ATP consumption to identify individuals with ME/CFS, a team led by Dr. Ron Davis at Stanford University developed a technique called a nanoelectronics assay that can measure the electrical responses of cells in real time. Support for development of the device was initially provided by NIH’s National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI). Results were published on April 29, 2019, in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


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