Scientists Discover Robust Evidence That Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS) Is a Biological Illness

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Scientists at the Center for Infection and Immunity at Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health have identified changes in the immune system of people with chronic fatigue syndrome, known medically as myalgic encephalomyelitis. These findings are provide the most definitive evidence to date that the condition is biologically based, not psychological.

The large, multicenter study, published on February 27 in the journal Science Advances, presents evidence of increased amounts of certain immune molecules called cytokines in patients who had the disease three years or less that were not present in those with the disease for longer periods or in those without the disease.

In a video interview, lead researcher Mady Hornig, MD, associate professor of epidemiology, explains that the findings could help improve diagnosis and identify treatment options for the disabling disorder, which has symptoms that range from extreme fatigue and difficulty concentrating to headaches and muscle pain.

Tangible substantiation of disease and the possibility of a blood test is a game-changer for people with the disease, says Hornig, who is also director of translational research at the Center for Infection and Immunity. “This can bring individuals who have been denied a diagnosis, and denied recognition of their illness… to an early diagnosis that may in addition tell us something about what is causing their illness and how potentially to treat it.”