If you have known someone who has been complaining of extreme fatigue, difficulty in concentrating due to headaches and muscle pain for past 6 months or more, don’t brush it off as a psychological condition or mere depression. It may well be Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) which is now proven to have a biological basis. “We now have evidence confirming what millions of people with this disease already know, that CFS is not psychological,” stated lead author Mady Hornig, director of translational research at the Center for Infection and Immunity, Columbia University.
CFS also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis is a condition where the patients suffer from prolonged exhaustion that turns simple chores like dressing up, writing, walking etc. into a humungous task. With age and time, this condition worsens and does not improve with bed rest. This syndrome is often misdiagnosed as a psychological condition leading to inappropriate and ineffective treatments. “It’s been a highly stigmatized disorder. There’s been many naysayers that don’t even believe it’s a biological disorder,” said Mady Hornig.
The researchers from Columbia University have identified distinct immune changes in patients suffering from CFS. They used the blood samples of CFS patients who were early in the course of this condition, have been suffering for a longer duration and healthy individuals to run immunological assays. It was found that the patients who had this diseases for three years or less showed increased levels of cytokines compared to healthy individuals and those who had been sick for longer periods.
“This was a much more profound set of immune changes than had been seen before,” Hornig said. “We think it holds promise for earlier diagnosis”—although, she added, “we need more validation” before the research can be translated into any clinical applications. If replicated in longitudinal studies, these data may provide a basis for early immunomodulatory intervention to prevent long term, recalcitrant illness.
At this point, the mystery of what causes CFS, how it progresses and what can be done to manage this disorder if not treat it completely still remains uncertain. But by proving that this condition is biological, the researchers have at least paved way for further studies on a ‘real illness’. Until then, many more miles to go before this disorder is decoded.
The original paper of this study can be accessed here.