Those affected with chronic fatigue syndrome can now be diagnosed quicker and with greater accuracy that could lead to better understanding of the mysterious illness, according to researchers.
In the new study, scientists at Cornell University used biological markers for both diversity in gut bacteria and blood-based inflammatory markers—such as lipopolysaccharides and C-reactive protein—to diagnose the presence or absence of the debilitating illness also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis, in 87 patients.
This technique can be used to diagnose ME/CFS in more than 80 percent of patients tested, according to the study.
Out of the group, 48 had ME/CFS, and 39 were healthy controls – and just by looking at their biological markers, the team could predict which was which with an 83 percent accuracy rate. Not only is that progress in terms of future diagnostic tests, but it also suggests a link between gut bacteria health and ME/CFS.
“Our work demonstrates that the gut bacterial microbiome in chronic fatigue syndrome patients isn’t normal, perhaps leading to gastrointestinal and inflammatory symptoms in victims of the disease,” said Maureen Hanson, the paper’s senior author, in a statement. “Furthermore, our detection of a biological abnormality provides further evidence against the ridiculous concept that the disease is psychological in origin.”
For the longest time, the debilitating illness has mystified doctors and has been one of great debate among sceptics, who’ve claimed it is more in your mind than in your health and that it’s just regular exhaustion.
CFS is classified by normal exertion leading to powerful fatigue that isn’t alleviated by rest. There are no known causes and diagnosis requires lengthy tests administered by an expert.
The scientists also have evidence that an overactive immune system plays a role in chronic fatigue. Symptoms include fatigue even after sleep, muscle and joint pain and gastrointestinal distress.
The researchers, however, found that ME/CFS patients had less diversity in their gut bacteria than the control group – specifically, fewer bacterial species that were anti-inflammatory and more which were pro-inflammatory.
They could also identify changes and specific markers of inflammation in the blood, which the researchers think could be due to intestinal problems leaking bacteria into the blood – which triggers an immune response, and might worsen symptoms in patients, according to Science Alert.
Further research is still needed to be sure if this change in gut bacteria is one of the causes of ME/CFS or if it’s a symptom.
The more researchers understand about this disease, the more likely they’ll be able to find a way to treat it.
This study was published in Microbiome