Scientists develop a new test for chronic fatigue syndrome

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Myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), better known as chronic fatigue syndrome, is a complex chronic disease affecting some 600,000 Canadians and up to 2.5 million Americans.

It’s also poorly understood: until now there has been no validated blood biomarker or test to diagnose the disease.

In a new study, researchers developed a new diagnostic test that makes it possible to test patients who cannot participate in clinical studies due to the severity of their condition.

The development of this test represents the first molecular diagnostic tool for ME and one that has been long-awaited by many clinicians and patients.

It also opens up the possibility of classifying patients into subgroups to better understand the molecular mechanisms involved in their symptoms and to better select patients who could benefit from therapeutic approaches by repositioning existing drugs.

The research was conducted by a team at Université de Montréal and elsewhere.

Mechanical stimulation applied to the arm by an inflatable arm cuff causes post-exertional malaise, the primary symptom of ME, and provides a precise molecular signature that makes it possible to differentiate patients from normal participants or those suffering from related conditions such as fibromyalgia.

The team found an increase or reduction of some of the eleven microRNAs measured in the test can help predict the patient’s therapeutic response to certain drugs, which improves the chances of finding the right therapy by personalizing the treatment.

They are now validating the test in other populations in order to determine whether the biomarkers used here are equally sensitive in detecting ME and equally relevant for launching new clinical trials.

The test may allow for early detection of ME in people with persistent post-COVID-19 symptoms that are very similar to ME, making earlier intervention possible.

One author of the study is Dr. Alain Moreau.

The study is published in Scientific Reports.

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