Evidence for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?
Proteins in Spinal Fluid May Be Markers of Syndrome, Early Tests Show
Dec. 1, 2005 -- Scientists may have found biological evidence of chronic
Chronic fatigue syndrome involves severe, unexplained tiredness that lasts
for at least six months and doesn't improve with rest.
Chronic fatigue syndrome often greatly interferes with patients' lives. But
it hasn't been well understood from a scientific point of view, and its cause
The new evidence lies in patients' spinal fluid. Tests show 16 proteins in
the spinal fluid of people with chronic fatigue syndrome but not in healthy
people, according to a study in BMC Neurology.
Of those 16 proteins, five especially stood out. "If you had one of
those that was present, then you had chronic fatigue syndrome," researcher
James Baraniuk, MD, tells WebMD.
Baraniuk is an associate professor of medicine at Georgetown University
"This ushers in a whole new era for identifying [and] recognizing the
legitimacy of these disorders,' he says.
Baraniuk and colleagues compared spinal fluid from 50 people with chronic
fatigue syndrome and related conditions to spinal fluid from 22 healthy
The researchers originally recruited people with fibromyalgia or Persian
Gulf War illness and later realized that many of the patients had chronic
"That's very important because it suggests that these are allied
disorders," Baraniuk says, adding that the term "Persian Gulf War
illness" is no longer used by the U.S. Army.
Test Not Ready Yet
"I don't believe there's much value in getting a spinal tap and finding
somebody to measure these different proteins," Baraniuk says.
"First off, it's a research tool. ... You'd have to measure maybe 20
proteins and look at what the pattern is like. We're not there yet in terms of
technology to be able to do that."
He notes that the proteins were identified in two different sets of
patients. "The odds of finding these exact same proteins twice [are]
astronomical," Baraniuk says.
Breaking New Ground
"People generally and many physicians generally believe chronic fatigue,
fibromyalgia are not legitimate disorders," Baraniuk says.
"They sometimes treat these people extremely rudely and don't pay any
attention to their symptoms," he continues. "As a result, these
patients will go from doctor to doctor. The average is for them to see seven
subspecialists a year and have seven different names for the problem."
"They will be told they have functional disorders, which means there's
no test you can do to prove it and there's very few drugs that you can take to
improve it," Baraniuk says.
"But a study like this shows that these people have something in their
cerebral spinal fluid that separates them from the normal population," he