A major problem that ME/CFS patients have to endure is the lack of reliable diagnostics of the disease. Many patients suffer for years to rule out other diseases before an ME/CFS diagnosis can be established. Ron Davis’ group at Stanford University has recently published a small-scale, yet promising study to solve this problem. They report identifying ME/CFS patient samples from healthy controls, and with very high accuracy.
Previous studies have shown that there are abnormalities in many metabolic pathways in ME/CFS, so the team developed a new blood test to measure these differences. They used a nanoelectronic assay, where cells in patient blood samples are stressed using salt, and then that stress is measured by looking at the change in flow of electrical activity across thousands of electrodes. For blood samples from ME/CFS patients, the disruption to the electrical current was much larger than it was for blood samples from healthy controls. Using this significant disruption as a marker for ME/CFS, they were able to identify all 20 ME/CFS patients in their study as having ME/CFS, and had no false positives in their 20 healthy controls.
In addition to being a cost-effective diagnostic tool, the nanoelectronic assay could also be used to evaluate the efficacy of drugs that could treat ME/CFS. Hopefully, this early pilot study will soon be validated in larger patient cohorts and in other diseases.