There was a time when researchers and clinicians debated about whether chronic fatigue syndrome was a disease or if people were imagining their symptoms. Over time, patients were vindicated and it was recognized as a genuine medical condition, and was called myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome, (ME/CFS). But little was known about why it happened or how to diagnose it. Clinicians have been advised that the diagonsis can be applied to patients who report fatigue for over six months, and after that, the symptoms may vary widely and can include sore throat, memory problems, tender lymph nodes, joint pain, headaches, and sleep difficulties.
Now, researchers may be changing things for people who suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome. A study has demonstrated that there is now a method to diagnose the disorder, which was shown to be 91 percent accurate in identifying patients. The findings have been reported in Advanced Science.
It's been proposed that problems with energy use in cells can lead to ME/CFS, and that peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) are involved. PBMCs are cells with a round nucleus, and include T cells, monocytes and lymphocytes.
In this work, the investigators developed a method for applying a tool called Raman spectroscopy to the cells. This tool is typically used to compare the vibrational states of molecules and can be used to identify molecular fingerprints. The researchers hypothesized that individual PBMCs from patients with ME/CFS would have different vibration modes than cells from healthy people.
First, the team tested their idea and compared cells from 61 ME/CFS patients to cells from 16 unaffected individuals. This revealed a clear difference between the cells' vibrations.
Next, the developed an app with artificial intelligence that could process large amounts of data from Raman spectroscopy tests on more cells. In all, about 2,000 cells from 98 patients were tested. This showed that the method was 91 accurate at identifying the cells from patients with ME/CFS.
While more work is planned to improve the test, the investigators believe they have found a way to clearly diagnose ME/CFS in patients.