So far, it was not known what causes chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME). This condition causes persistent exhaustion that remains even after sleep or rest, limiting a person’s ability to carry out ordinary daily activities. There is no a single laboratory test to diagnose this disease; and because CFS can mimic other health problems, doctors need a long time to rule out other diseases, such as sleep disorders, mental health issues, and other medical disorders.
Now this may change, a group of researchers of Cornell University found for the first time biological markers of CFS in inflammatory microbial agents in the blood and gut bacteria. The researchers reported that they were able to diagnose CFS in 83 percent of patients through stool samples and blood tests.
This study, published in the journal Microbiome, may not only represent a better system to diagnose the disease, but also opens the possibility to better understanding the cause of the disease.
Paper’s senior author Maureen Hanson said: “Our work demonstrates that the gut bacterial microbiome in chronic fatigue syndrome patients isn’t normal, perhaps leading to gastrointestinal and inflammatory symptoms in victims of the disease. […] Furthermore, our detection of a biological abnormality provides further evidence against the ridiculous concept that the disease is psychological in origin.”
First author Ludovic Giloteaux, a postdoctoral researcher, said: “In the future, we could see this technique as a complement to other noninvasive diagnoses, but if we have a better idea of what is going on with these gut microbes and patients, maybe clinicians could consider changing diets, using prebiotics such as dietary fibers or probiotics to help treat the disease.”
The study included 48 patients previously diagnosed with CFS and 39 healthy controls, whom provided blood and stool samples. The group of Cornwell researchers identified different types of bacteria by sequencing regions of microbial DNA from the stool samples.
The researchers found that the diversity of bacterial types in CFS patients was greatly reduced, and in particular bacterial species known to be anti-inflammatory were fewer, in comparison with healthy people, a phenomenon also seen in people with ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.
Probably caused by a leaky gut from intestinal problems, which allows bacteria entering to the blood, the researchers also found specific markers of inflammation in the blood. The immune system is triggered for such markers, and in turn, can worsen CFS symptoms.
By the moment, the researchers do not know if the alteration in the gut bacteria is a cause or a consequence of CFS. In a next step, the Cornell team will study fungi and viruses differences in the gut microbiome of CFS patients to see if they may cause or contribute to the illness.
Source: Cornell Chronicle