Harvard study sheds light on chronic fatigue syndrome

02 August 2017

A team of researchers from Stanford University has taken a step towards gaining a better understanding of a condition chronic fatigue syndrome, which is estimated to affect over 836,000 Americans.

The condition has no known cure or cause, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

According to the CDC, chronic fatigue syndrome (sometimes referred to in medical literature as myalgic encephalomyelitis / chronic fatigue syndrome, or ME/CFS) is a debilitating illness characterised by overwhelming fatigue that is not improved by rest.

The disease has remained a medical mystery for decades, and according to the CDC approximately 90 per cent of people with ME/CFS have remained undiagnosed.

''Chronic fatigue syndrome can turn a life of productive activity into one of dependency and desolation,'' Jose Montoya, MD, the lead author of the study, published Monday in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, said in a statement.

The study found substantially higher levels of certain cytokines, substances from the immune system in the blood of patients. They found that the level of severity of the symptoms of CFS varied directly with the level of cytokines, and the researchers suggest a link between excess inflammation and the disease.

The research links CFS to variations in 17 immune-system signalling proteins whose concentrations in the blood correlate with the disease's severity.

The findings provide evidence that inflammation is a powerful driver of the debilitating condition, according to experts.

''There's been a great deal of controversy and confusion surrounding ME/CFS-even whether it is an actual disease,'' says senior author Mark Davis, professor of immunology and microbiology and director of Stanford's Institute for Immunity, Transplantation, and Infection, www.futurity.org reports in an article that sourced Stanford University News.

''Our findings show clearly that it's an inflammatory disease and provide a solid basis for a diagnostic blood test.''

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