A new study looks at the potential for a single blood test to detect chronic fatigue syndrome by measuring how immune cells respond to stress. Up to 250,000 Australians are affected by the debilitating but poorly understood neurological conditions known as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis and chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS). The symptoms vary in severity, from headaches and pain in muscles and joints, to fatigue to a disabling inability to tolerate light, sound and movement. As a result, sufferers can be bedridden for months or even years. According to ME Australia, people with severe symptoms can have a quality of life similar to patients with cancer or late-stage AIDS.

A commercially available standard diagnostic test for ME/CFS has yet to be developed. And because there is limited knowledge about its causes and a wide range of symptoms, it can be difficult for people with ME/CFS to gain a definitive diagnosis. Treatment options are also limited.

Professor Ron Davis, a biochemist and geneticist at Stanford University, has recently published a paper describing a new tool that could help diagnose ME/CFS. Davis also said the test provides scientific evidence the condition is not psychological in nature.

Energy transfer
The study, recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS), compared blood samples from 40 people: 20 with ME/CFS and 20 without.

The samples from both groups were stressed by adding salt, and the researchers used a nanoelectronic assay to measure the change in energy as an electrical current flowed through immune cells and plasma for each patient.<