The ME Association End of Week Research Round-up | 24 January 2020


Charlotte Stephens, Research Correspondent, ME Association.

This is a new feature that we will be doing at the end of every week as a result of your feedback.

We will post a list of abstracts from research studies published on ME/CFS and will include simple summaries of those studies we feel are worth additional comment.

The studies will then be added to the central Research Index at the end of each month when we will make the updated version freely available.

We will also continue to produce more detailed summaries of especially interesting and important new research.

ME/CFS Research Published 17th– 24th January 2020

Three new research studies have been published and are summarised below:

  1. A survey in Australia of 480 people with ME/CFS found that reported health-related quality of life is significantly impaired in ME/CFS patients compared with the general population.
  2. Researchers from DePaul University in America screened over 10,000 children (aged 5-17) from the Chicago metropolitan area for ME/CFS. The prevalence of pediatric ME/CFS was 0.75%, with a higher percentage being African American and Latinx than Caucasian. Of the youth diagnosed with ME/CFS by the doctors during the screening, less than 5% had already been previously diagnosed with the illness (see DePaul University Press Release for more information).
  3. An American study analysed variations in cortisol secretion patterns, timings and amplitudes in patients with fibromyalgia, with and without chronic fatigue syndrome, compared to healthy controls. They found that the clearance rate of cortisol by the liver is lower in patients compared to controls, suggesting there may be higher levels of serum cortisol.

ME/CFS Research References and Abstracts

1. Eaton-Fitch N et al. (2020)
Health-related quality of life in patients with myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome: an Australian cross-sectional study.
Quality pf Life Research [Epub ahead or print].

Abstract
Background: Myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) is a serious and debilitating disorder associated with significant disruptions in daily life including. This study aimed to examine the impact of sociodemographic and patient symptom characteristics on health-related quality of life (HRQoL) of Australians with ME/CFS.

Methods: Self-reported data collected from 480 individuals diagnosed with ME/CFS were obtained between August 2014 and August 2018. This cross-sectional survey analysed sociodemographic, symptom characteristics and HRQoL according to the 36-Item Health Survey (SF-36). Multivariate linear regression models were used to determine ME/CFS symptoms associated with eight domains of HRQoL.

Results: Reported HRQoL was significantly impaired in ME/CFS patients across all domains compared with the general population. Scores were the lowest for physical role (4.11 ± 15.07) and energy/fatigue (13.54 ± 13.94). Associations with females, higher body mass index (BMI), employment status, cognitive difficulties, sensory disturbances and cardiovascular symptoms were observed in the physical functioning domain.

Impaired pain domain scores were associated with high BMI, annual visits to their general practitioner, flu-like symptoms and fluctuations in body temperature. Reduced well-being scores were associated with smoking status, psychiatric comorbidity, cognitive difficulties, sleep disturbances and gastrointestinal difficulties.

Conclusion: This study provides evidence that ME/CFS has a profound and negative impact on HRQoL in an Australian cohort.

2. Leonard AJ et al. (2020)
The Prevalence of Pediatric Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome in a Community-Based Sample.
Child and Youth Care Forum 1-17.

Abstract
Background: Most pediatric prevalence studies of myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) have been based upon data from tertiary care centers, a process known for systematic biases such as excluding youth of lower socioeconomic status and those less likely to have access to health care. In addition, most pediatric ME/CFS epidemiologic studies have not included a thorough medical and psychiatric examination. The purpose of this study was to determine the prevalence of pediatric ME/CFS from an ethnically and sociodemographically diverse community-based random sample.

Method: A sample of 10,119 youth aged 5–17 from 5622 households in the Chicagoland area were screened. Following evaluations, a team of physicians made final diagnoses. Youth were given a diagnosis of ME/CFS if they met criteria for three selected case definitions. A probabilistic, multi-stage formula was used for final prevalence calculations.

Results: The prevalence of pediatric ME/CFS was 0.75%, with a higher percentage being African American and Latinx than Caucasian. Of the youth diagnosed with ME/CFS, less than 5% had been previously diagnosed with the illness.

Conclusions: Many youth with the illness have not been previously diagnosed with ME/CFS. These findings point to the need for better ways to identify and diagnose youth with this illness.

3. Pednekar DD et al. (2020)
A System Theoretic Investigation of Cortisol Dysregulation in Fibromyalgia Patients with Chronic Fatigue.
2019 41st Annual International Conference of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society (EMBC).

Abstract
Fibromyalgia Syndrome (FMS) and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) are complex medical conditions with similar symptoms such as anxiety, fatigue, depression, headaches, muscle aches and joint pain. The etiology of both these syndromes is unknown.

The objective of this study is to characterize FMS, both in the presence and in the absence of CFS, by analyzing variations in cortisol secretion patterns, timings, amplitudes, and the number of the underlying pulses as well as infusion and clearance rates. The comparison is performed against matched healthy control subjects.

We estimate the hormonal secretory events by deconvolving cortisol data using a two-step coordinate descent approach. The first step implements a sparse recovery approach to infer the amplitudes and the timings of the cortisol secretion events from limited cortisol hormone data. The main advantage of this method is estimating the cortisol secretory events using a system theoretic approach. The second step is to estimate the physiological system parameters (i.e. infusion and clearance rates). This approach has been verified on healthy individuals previously.

Our results show that the clearance rate of cortisol by the liver is relatively lower in patients as compared to the matched healthy individuals. This suggests that there is a relatively higher accumulation of serum cortisol in patients when compared to matched healthy subjects.

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