Cracking the Mystery of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

New research points to a possible diagnostic test and treatment

More than 1 million Americans have faced the same frustrating medical problem: they have persistent flu-like symptoms, chronic inflammation, and are constantly exhausted. These patients aren’t “making it up” or just not getting enough sleep—they have chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), a mysterious illness with no definitive diagnostic test or treatment, though new research from Stanford University might finally point the way to both.

A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences showed a link between CFS and proteins called cytokines. Researchers studied 192 CFS patients and 392 healthy control patients and discovered that, between the two groups, there were dramatically different levels of 13 types of inflammation-causing cytokines. As a result of their findings, the Stanford team is working on a panel that could be used to test the levels of the culprit cytokines. Researchers hope this work could pave the way to both the first diagnostic test and the first treatment for CFS.

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