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expert reaction to metabolic features of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS/ME)

A group of researchers publishing in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) have examined the metabolic features of patients with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS/ME) and report a number of differences in various metabolic pathways.


Prof. Andrew McIntosh, Chair of Biological Psychiatry, University of Edinburgh and Honorary Consultant Psychiatrist, said:

“Naviaux et al. discovered that the levels of blood metabolites were so markedly affected in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome that they could potentially be used to completely separate the affected individuals from unaffected participants in their sample. Intriguingly, the chemicals altered in their study of CFS belonged to pathways affecting a number of bodily processes and functions previously implicated in CFS, including the gut microbiome (gut bacterial genome) and cellular energy production. The study establishes that this approach is likely to yield new findings and possible insights in the study of a number of complex and highly heterogeneous disorders, including CFS.

“Whilst interesting, however, it is difficult to know whether the changes reported are a cause or an effect of CFS. There is also a lot more to be done before there can be any clinical or diagnostic impact from this relatively new technology. I think it is essential that readers of this paper interpret the assessment of metabolomics as a diagnostic test with particular caution. Further genomic and metabolic studies, independent replications and much larger samples, will be needed to address these and other issues, before any assessment of clinical impact can be made. Nevertheless, this is a promising start to a young and rapidly growing area of research with broad application to a number of common diseases.”


Metabolic features of chronic fatigue syndrome’ by Naviaux et al. published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) on Monday 29th August. 


Declared interests

Prof. McIntosh: “I have received grant support from Pfizer, Lilly and Janssen. I am currently supported by the Wellcome Trust.”

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