Chronic fatigue syndrome may be a legitimate neurological condition

Researchers might have found evidence that chronic fatigue syndrome is a real and legitimate neurological condition.

A pilot study published in the open access journal BMC Neurology reveals that patients with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) have a set of proteins in their spinal cord fluid that were not detected in healthy individuals. These proteins might give insight into the causes of CFS, and could be used as markers to diagnose patients with CFS.

James Baraniuk and Begona Casado, from Georgetown University in the US, and colleagues from other institutions in the US and Italy, studied the content of the spinal cord fluid, or ‘cerebrospinal fluid’, in CFS patients and healthy individuals. This fluid can be tested for the diagnosis of various neurological diseases and infections. The researchers identified 16 proteins that can be found in patients with CFS but not in healthy individuals. Five of these proteins are found in all CFS patients but none of the controls. They could be a ’biosignature’ for the disease, which could be used to diagnose it.

This is a pilot study, but Baraniuk et al. conclude that “this is the first predictive model of chronic fatigue syndrome to be based only on objective data”. They add: “Given the controversy over whether CFS and its allied syndromes are legitimate medical conditions, our model provides initial objective evidence for the legitimacy of CSF as a distinct neurological disease.”

Many of the proteins found in CFS patients are involved in protein folding and in various neurological syndromes, which might give clues regarding the origin of chronic fatigue syndrome.

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