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Researchers Were Able to Predict ME/CFS With 84 Percent Accuracy

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One of the biggest challenges of myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) is no definitive test exists yet to prove you have the condition, making it difficult for patients to get diagnosed — and, in many cases, to prove there is even anything “wrong” with you at all — or find the right treatment. But a new study was able to predict ME/CFS with a high degree of accuracy, adding to the growing body of research that supports the possibility of a blood test for ME/CFS.

What the Research Says

The study, published in the journal “Scientific Reports” earlier this month, looked at data from 50 patients with ME/CFS and 50 healthy controls. Researchers analyzed 562 metabolites, or substances made or used when the body breaks down food, chemicals or its own tissue in blood plasma, and looked at how these metabolites were different in people with and without ME/CFS.

Using a few of the biomarkers that were found to distinguish ME/CFS subjects from the control group most strongly, researchers were able to predict which patients had ME/CFS with an accuracy rate of 84 percent.

The findings were consistent with previous studies that found dysfunction in metabolites associated with mitochondria, the part of the cell involved in producing energy. The study also built on previous research that found a unique metabolic pattern in patients with ME/CFS and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS is a common comorbidity of ME/CFS).

Last year, researchers at Stanford University found a link between ME/CFS and 17 markers of inflammation found in the blood, suggesting a possible reason for the “flu-like” symptoms people with ME/CFS experience and also supporting the idea that the condition may one day be diagnosable with a blood test.

What It Means for You

The study’s small sample size means more research will have to be done to replicate the findings, but researchers are hopeful it will help bring scientists one step closer to understanding how ME/CFS works.

“This is a strong predictive model that suggests we’re getting close to the point where we’ll have lab tests that will allow us to say with a high level of certainty who has this disorder,” first author Dorottya Nagy-Szakal said in a statement.

“We’re getting close to the point where we can develop animal models that will allow us to test various hypotheses, as well as potential therapies,” W. Ian Lipkin, another of the study’s authors, added. “For instance, some patients might benefit from probiotics to retune their gastrointestinal microflora or drugs that activate certain neurotransmitter systems.”

Originally published: July 27, 2018
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