A promising blood cell-based diagnostic test for chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME/CFS), has been developed by a team of scientists led by the University of Oxford. Preliminary results indicate that this test can distinguish between individuals with ME/CFS and unaffected individuals with an accuracy of 91%.
ME/CFS is a debilitating condition characterised by severe fatigue and other symptoms. Still, it often goes undiagnosed for years, with up to 91 per cent of cases in the US remaining undiagnosed. Early diagnosis is crucial for effective management and potential advancements in understanding the disease and treatment development.
The blood test focuses on peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs). It uses a combination of Raman spectroscopy and artificial intelligence (AI) to differentiate between individuals with ME/CFS and healthy controls. Previous research has suggested that PBMCs from individuals with ME/CFS exhibit reduced energetic function, aligning with the theory that the condition involves impaired energy production.
In a study involving nearly 100 participants, including ME/CFS patients, healthy controls, and individuals with multiple sclerosis (MS), the test accurately classified 91 per cent of patients. It also demonstrated the ability to differentiate between mild, moderate, and severe ME/CFS cases with 84% accuracy.
While these initial results are promising, further validation studies involving larger cohorts are needed. The researchers hope to address challenges related to sample processing. However, it is important to note that single-cell Raman spectroscopy is not widely available in certified diagnostic laboratories.
This blood cell-based diagnostic approach can improve early diagnosis and pave the way for better understanding and treating ME/CFS. Many individuals with ME/CFS struggle to receive a timely diagnosis and access evidence-based treatments, as some medical professionals often face the condition with scepticism.
While the development of this diagnostic test represents a significant step forward, additional research and validation are necessary before it can become widely available to help the millions of people living with ME/CFS receive the support and care they desperately need.