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Unlocking Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Thursday 24 March 2011

The Wall Street Journal

From The Wall Street Journal:


Unlocking Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

MARCH 12, 2011

As scientists race to find a biological cause for chronic fatigue syndrome, long considered by many doctors to exist in patients' heads, the National Institutes of Health could shed new light on the debate at a major scientific workshop on the disorder.

Researchers at the University of Utah and elsewhere are working to create diagnostic tests, based partly on proteins or other markers that appear to show up in greater quantities in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome. Diagnosing the disorder is difficult, in part because symptoms vary among patients.

Other scientists are trying to understand why other infections, such as mononucleosis, appear to prompt chronic fatigue syndrome in some patients. And in a program at New York's Columbia University, researchers are seeking to identify pathogens that may appear prominently in patients with the disorder. Researchers will be testing "for all those agents that we know affect vertebrates on this globe," says Mady Hornig, who heads the Columbia program.

Chronic fatigue syndrome affects between one million and four million Americans. They suffer from memory and concentration problems, debilitating pain and severe fatigue. Unable to identify a cause, doctors often dismissed these patients as complainers.

Currently, diagnosing chronic fatigue syndrome is largely a process of elimination. Molly J. Billings, 22 years old, first showed symptoms of the disorder in 2004, including headaches, muscle aches, fatigue and weakness. A year later, she could only get around by wheelchair and was bed-bound most of the time. She endured years of tests to rule out other medical explanations for her condition.

"It was horrible to go and not find anything," says Ms. Billings, who lives in Kendall, N.Y. "I want a test that will give me a finite result." Today, her symptoms have shown gradual improvement. She attends classes twice a week at a local community college and is able occasionally to go out with friends.


The full article can be found here.



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