Unique blood and microbiome profiles pave way for test for chronic fatigue syndrome
In the world of medicine there arestill many biological mysteries yet to be solved. Chronicfatigue syndrome (CFS) is one of those big unsolved mysteries but ateam from Columbia University is bringing us closer to understandingthis elusive disorder, finding a specific metabolic fingerprint forthe condition that could lead to a new diagnostic tool for doctors.
Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), alsoknown as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), is a controversialcondition identified by a variety of symptoms, from severe fatigueand muscle pain, to allergies, depression and impaired memory. Otherthan targeting specific symptoms, there is no effective treatment forCFS, and despite a growing body of strong physiological evidence,some in the medical community still persist in labeling it apsychological condition.
Last year, a team of researchers from the Center for Infection and Immunity at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health revealed sufferers of CFS displayedmicrobiome profiles that were unique to the disorder. Compared to ahealthy control group, the researchers found that CFS patients couldbe identified by having abnormally high levels of certain bacteria inthe gut.
Following on from that research theteam moved to studying the particular blood metabolite profile of CFSpatients and analyzed plasma samples from 50 CFS sufferers comparedto 50 healthy control subjects. Over 500 different metabolicbiomarkers were examined and the researchers homed in on several thatwere significantly altered in relation to the healthy control group.
When a predictive model was generated to diagnose CFS using theseblood biomarkers the researchers reached an accuracy rate of over 80percent. A comprehensive model was then generated combining themetabolic markers and the previously studied microbiome markers. Thismodel could accurately predict the presence of CFS with 84 percentcertainty.
"This is a strong predictive modelthat suggests we're getting close to the point where we'll havelab tests that will allow us to say with a high level of certaintywho has this disorder," says Dorottya Nagy-Szakal, first author onthe new study.
Other than offering a pathway towards amuch-needed diagnostic tool for the disorder, it's hoped this research will lead to a better understanding of what causes this devastatingcondition. One outcome the researchers suggest is that animal modelsbe developed that simulate these same metabolic and microbiomefootprints. If those animals subsequently display CFS symptomsand behaviours it means that those specific parameters are playing acausal role in the disorder.
"We're getting close to the pointwhere we can develop animal models that will allow us to test varioushypotheses, as well as potential therapies, says W. Ian Lipkin,director of the Center for Infection and Immunity. "For instance,some patients might benefit from probiotics to retune theirgastrointestinal microflora or drugs that activate certainneurotransmitter systems."
It's estimated that up to two millionpeople suffer from CFS in the United States alone. While the majorityof doctors have come to accept it as a valid clinical physiologicalcondition, many are still reticent to diagnose it due to the lack ofclearly defined biological markers. It is hoped that this researchwill help in the diagnosis, and aid development of treatments, for the millions of sufferersof this misunderstood condition.
The study was published in the journalScientific Reports.