Scientists Now Have a Better Understanding of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

A recently concluded study has a lot to say

Scientist in lab looking into a microscope
Scientists now have a better understanding of chronic fatigue.
Getty Images

Precisely how many people are currently living with myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome across the nation is a subject of some debate. The CDC estimates the figure at 836,000 to 2.5 million, with 90% of those being undiagnosed. The nonprofit organization Solve M.E. puts that number higher: between 5 million and 9 million.

Whether it’s just over 800,000 or 9 million, it’s a harrowing experience for anyone living with the condition — one which has challenged doctors and scientists looking for ways to alleviate it. Our understanding of chronic fatigue syndrome might be expanding with the publication of a new study that explores a wide variety of causes for the condition. “[T]he clinical phenotype is poorly defined, the pathophysiology is unknown and no disease-modifying treatments are available,” the study’s authors write. And one of the goals of the study involved finding a diagnostic biomarker for the condition.

As Will Stone reports at NPR, the study clarifies the existence of biological effects in people with ME/CFS and could lay the groundwork for future clinical trials for treatment. The fact that the study could be useful in addressing long COVID is another factor at work here. Given that the study began seven years ago, it’s a factor that no one involved in the study could have anticipated.

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The study’s authors write that “there may not be a single unified mechanism” at work here, and that “successful therapy may require a personalized medicine approach.” The results of this study should go a long way in increasing our understanding of chronic fatigue syndrome — and hopefully will bring us closer to an effective treatment for it.

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