Scientists Develop Blood Test for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

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Sept. 11, 2023 – A new blood test is highly accurate at diagnosing chronic fatigue syndrome, offering for the first time an objective way to identify the sometimes disabling condition that is estimated to affect up to 2.5 million people in the U.S. 

A University of Oxford-led research team compared test results among 61 people with chronic fatigue syndrome, 21 people with multiple sclerosis, and 16 people who had no known health problems. They found that the new test is 91% accurate, according to findings published in the journal Advanced Science. The test can also differentiate between mild, moderate, and severe cases of the illness 84% of the time. 

Currently, chronic fatigue syndrome is so difficult to diagnose that an estimated 9 in 10 people who have the condition don’t know they have it. The current process to identify the illness involves self-reporting symptoms, questionnaire responses, and other subjective measures. 

The new test uses artificial intelligence to analyze vibrations in a single blood cell caused by a laser. The technology used is called Raman spectroscopy, which can “interrogate individual cells,” the authors wrote.

The cause of chronic fatigue syndrome is unknown, according to the CDC. While fatigue for more than 6 months is the main symptom, others include problems with thinking and sleep, muscle aches, and light sensitivity. People who have the disease may see their symptoms get worse after trying to do normal daily activities or when sitting upright or standing. Some people with the illness become confined to bed for varying periods, making it difficult or impossible to hold a job, attend school, or take part in family activities. 

About 7 in 10 people with chronic fatigue syndrome are women, and about 3 in 4 cases include a report of an infection of some type before the disease starts.

The researchers wrote that the new test could help differentiate between other conditions that have similar symptoms, such as fibromyalgia, Lyme disease, and long COVID.