Chronic fatigue syndrome, also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), is a condition characterized by extreme fatigue that can't be explained by an underlying medical condition.

Imaginary Condition

People with the CFS complain of overwhelming fatigue, headaches, sleep problems, and joint pain. The illness can be so incapacitating it can render patients bed- or house-bound for years.

When patients seek medical help, results of tests that check the health of the liver, kidney, blood, heart function, and immune cell counts go back normal. As a result, the condition is often labeled as imaginary.

People who suffer from the condition, however, may soon be able to provide scientific proof that their ailment is real.

Blood Test May Flag People With CFS

Ron Davis, from Stanford University School of Medicine, and colleagues have developed a blood test that can flag the disease, which currently has no standard and reliable diagnostic test.

The test, which is still in a pilot phase, relies on how a person's immune cells respond to stress.

In the study that involved blood samples from 40 people, half of whom have chronic fatigue syndrome and the other half without, the test accurately flagged patients with CFS and none of the healthy individuals.

The researchers used nanoelectronic assay, which measures the amount of energy output that immune cells in the blood change when they are exposed to stress. More changes in the electrical activity means the cells and plasma flail under stress and incapable of processing it properly.

Davis and colleagues "stressed" the blood samples and compared the responses. The results showed the blood samples from CFS patients created clear spike while those from healthy participants remained relatively stable.

"We don't know exactly why the cells and plasma are acting this way, or even what they're doing," said Davis. "We clearly see a difference in the way healthy and chronic fatigue syndrome immune cells process stress."

Potential Treatment For CFS

The diagnostic platform may eventually help identify possible drugs that can treat the debilitating condition. By exposing blood samples of the participants to drug candidates and rerunning the diagnostic tests, researchers can see if a particular drugscan improve the response of the immune cells.

The findings were published in journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Monday.

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