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Australian Scientists Make Breakthrough In Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Testing
Tuesday 1 March 2016
Australian scientists make breakthrough in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome testing
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DAVID MARK: Australian scientists say they could soon produce a diagnosis for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome that could be as simple as having a blood test.
The scientists have identified new markers on white blood cells which can be used to screen patients who present with symptoms characteristic of chronic fatigue.
The team behind the breakthrough at Griffith University in Queensland say understanding the pathology behind Chronic Fatigue Syndrome will help to legitimise the disease.
Courtney Wilson reports.
COURTNEY WILSON: At 39, Lyn Wilson's life was turned upside down when she was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
But it wasn't just the diagnosis that rocked her.
It took 16 months from the onset of her first symptoms before Ms. Wilson could actually put a name to what was wrong.
LYN WILSON: It's a complete and utter exhaustion that, no matter how much you rest, you don't recover from.
COURTNEY WILSON: How difficult was that window of time between when you had symptoms and when you were diagnosed?
LYN WILSON: It was terrible. At one stage lost the feeling in my legs for 24 hours and then came back with pins and needles and I was assured that I would get a diagnosis.
Went to see a neurologist and he turned around and said, "You're just overweight, unfit and should go join an aerobics class.
So, you know, you did not get any sympathy along the way.
COURTNEY WILSON: With a broad spectrum of symptoms which vary from patient to patient, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is notoriously difficult to diagnose.
That's why the breakthrough by scientists studying the disease at Griffith University in Queensland is so significant.
Professor Don Staines says it's been years in the making.
DON STAINES: We have found for the first time, specific markers, which can now be used in the form of a blood test to screen people who may present with symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or myalgic encephalomyelitis to their GP.
COURTNEY WILSON: The discovery could mean that soon, a simple blood test is all it takes to confirm a diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
Professor Staines again.
DON STAINES: We're looking at changes in very specific parts of gene that then translate to certain receptors or proteins in the body that have key roles in metabolism, neuronal function, cardiovascular function and so on, so it's probably not surprising that it's taken this long to work it out.
COURTNEY WILSON: It's estimated some 400 000 Australians suffer Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, which leaves some people bedbound.
Symptoms vary from mental confusion and concentration loss to unexplained pains, gastrointestinal disturbance and even cardiovascular problems.
Professor Sonya Marshall Gradisnik says the research team is now looking to partner with diagnostic companies to develop the test to bring to market.
She says when that happens, it will have a huge impact for people who suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome.
SONYA MARSHALL GRADISNIK: I think it would expedite their diagnosis. It also would expedite recognition of illness, legitimise the illness and propel area of intervention.
COURTNEY WILSON: Lyn Wilson says from her experience, the impact of a quick, accurate diagnosis can't be underestimated.
SONYA MARSHALL GRADISNIK: It was just such a relief, and the diagnostic specialist kept saying, you know, "It's a terrible illness". But I was so relieved, I just couldn't wipe the smile off my face, I was just so pleased to finally know what it was.
COURTNEY WILSON: Professor Don Staines says it could still take several years before a blood test for chronic fatigue syndrome becomes available in Australia.
But, he says, when it happens, it will change peoples' thinking around the condition.
DON STAINES: Everyone will understand that this is a very disabling illness. It has very concrete pathology and hence gives people the reassurance that this is a very genuine illness, an extremely incapacitating illness and one that GPs and the general community will understand better.
LYN WILSON: For it to be a legitimate illness and be recognised by all doctors and be able to be as simple as having a blood test would be just phenomenal.
DAVID MARK: Chronic Fatigue Syndrome sufferer Lyn Wilson, ending that reporting by Courtney Wilson.
The full article can be found here.
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