Upfront

Flagging chronic fatigue

A blood test that reveals variations in how the immune systems of chronic fatigue syndrome patients respond to stress provided the first-ever biomarker for the debilitating illness, a pilot study showed.

Ron Davis, PhD, professor of biochemistry and of genetics, said patients can suffer for decades without answers as routine diagnostic tests typically come back normal.

“Too often, this disease is categorized as imaginary,” said Davis, senior author of a paper on the findings published April 29 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Researchers used salt to simulate stress, studying the resulting changes in the flow of electricity in blood samples of 20 people with chronic fatigue syndrome and 20 without. Spikes in current occurred only in the chronic fatigue syndrome patients.

Symptoms of the syndrome include exhaustion, sensitivity to light and unexplained pain.

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