ME Association December Summary of ME/CFS Published Research | 08 January 2020

January 8, 2020

Charlotte Stephens, Research Correspondent, ME Association.

The Index of Published ME/CFS Research has been updated to take account of the research published during December 2019.

The Index is a convenient way to locate and read the most recent studies and also those that were published previously.

The Index lists studies by subject matter and author, with links to PubMed or the relevant Journal.

It is free to download, comes with an interactive contents table and is an A-Z list of all the most important studies (and selected key documents and articles).

You can also find the index in the Research section of the website together with all the summary research reviews that the ME Association has published.

Highlights from December include:

  • Further evidence of Natural killer (NK) cell (immune cell) dysfunction
  • Elevated levels of lactate in the blood at rest, which correlate with the severity of PEM (post-exertional malaise)
  • An NIH-funded study found reduced T cell metabolism, as well as differences in cytokine profiles
  • A study looking into the effects of the drugs Amitriptyline and Nortriptyline on T-cell function (immune cells)

ME/CFS Research Published in December 2019

1. Balinas C et al. (2019)
Transient receptor potential melastatin 2 channels are overexpressed in myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome patients.
Journal of Translational Medicine 17 (401).

Background: Myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) is hallmarked by a significant reduction in natural killer (NK) cell cytotoxicity, a mechanism tightly regulated by calcium (Ca2+). Interestingly, interleukin-2 (IL-2) increases NK cell cytotoxicity.

Transient receptor potential melastatin 2 (TRPM2) ion channels are fundamental for Ca2+ signalling in NK cells. This pilot investigation aimed to characterise TRPM2 and CD38 surface expression in vitro on NK cells in ME/CFS patients.

This investigation furthermore examined the pharmaceutical effect of 8-bromoadenosine phosphoribose (8-Br-ADPR) and N6-Benzoyladenosine-3′,5′-cyclic monophosphate (N6-Bnz-cAMP) on TRPM2 and CD38 surface expression and NK cell cytotoxicity between ME/CFS and healthy control (HC) participants.

Methods: Ten ME/CFS patients (43.45 ± 12.36) and 10 HCs (43 ± 12.27) were age and sex matched. Isolated NK cells were labelled with fluorescent antibodies to determine baseline and drug treated TRPM2 and CD38 surface expression on NK cell subsets. Following IL-2 stimulation, NK cell cytotoxicity was measured following 8-Br-ADPR and N6-Bnz-cAMP drug treatments by flow cytometry.

Results: Baseline TRPM2 and CD38 surface expression was significantly higher on NK cell subsets in ME/CFS patients compared with HCs. Post IL-2 stimulation, TRPM2 and CD38 surface expression solely decreased on the CD56DimCD16+ subset. 8-Br-ADPR treatment significantly reduced TRPM2 surface expression on the CD56BrightCD16Dim/− subset within the ME/CFS group. Baseline cell cytotoxicity was significantly reduced in ME/CFS patients, however no changes were observed post drug treatment in either group.

Conclusion: Overexpression of TRPM2 on NK cells may function as a compensatory mechanism to alert a dysregulation in Ca2+ homeostasis to enhance NK cell function in ME/CFS, such as NK cell cytotoxicity.

As no improvement in NK cell cytotoxicity was observed within the ME/CFS group, an impairment in the TRPM2 ion channel may be present in ME/CFS patients, resulting in alterations in [Ca2+]i mobilisation and influx, which is fundamental in driving NK cell cytotoxicity.

Differential expression of TRPM2 between NK cell subtypes may provide evidence for their role in the pathomechanism involving NK cell cytotoxicity activity in ME/CFS.

2. Bhatia S et al. (2019)
A Cross-National Comparison of Myalgic Encephalomyelitis and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome at Tertiary Care Settings from the US and Spain.
American Journal of Social Sciences and Humanities 5 (1): 104-115.

Cross-national comparative studies are useful for describing the unique characteristics of complex illnesses, and can reveal culture-specific traits of disease frequency/severity and healthcare. Though myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) are debilitating conditions found all over the world, few studies have examined their characteristics across different countries. The purpose of this study was to compare the levels of functional impairment and symptomatology in patients with ME and CFS at tertiary referral hospitals in the US and Spain.

Four hundred twenty potentially eligible participants (N = 235 from the US and N = 185 from Spain) who met the 1994 Fukuda et al. definition for CFS were enrolled. Both samples completed the medical outcomes study 36-item short-form health survey (SF-36) as a proxy for impairment, and the DePaul Symptom Questionnaire (DSQ) for patient symptomatology. ANCOVA and, where appropriate, MANCOVA tests were used to compare the SF-36 and DSQ items for illness characteristics between the samples.

The patients from Spain demonstrated significantly worse functioning than those from the US in the SF-36 domains of physical functioning, bodily pain, general health functioning, role emotional, and mental health functioning. The Spanish sample also was also more symptomatic across all the DSQitems, most significantly in the pain and neuroendocrine domains. These findings may be due to differences between the US and Spain regarding disability policy, perception of ME and CFS, and access to specialist care.

3. Brigden A et al. (2019)
Results of the feasibility phase of the managed activity graded exercise in teenagers and pre-adolescents (MAGENTA) randomised controlled trial of treatments for chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis.
Pilot and Feasibility Studies 5: 151.

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) is relatively common in young people and causes significant disability. Graded exercise therapy (GET) and activity management are recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) despite a limited evidence-base for either treatment in paediatric CFS/ME.

This paper reports on feasibility and acceptability measures from the feasibility phase of the ongoing MAGENTA randomised controlled trial (RCT) investigating GET versus activity management for young people with CFS/ME.

4. Chandan J et al. (2019)
Intimate Partner Violence and the Risk of Developing Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
Journal of Interpersonal Violence [Epub ahead of print].

Intimate partner violence (IPV) is a global public health issue with a variety of ill health consequences associated with exposure. Due to the stimulation of chronic stress and inflammatory pathways, childhood abuse has been associated with the subsequent development of functional syndromes such as fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).

Although IPV in women appears to elicit similar biochemical responses, this association has not been tested thoroughly in IPV survivors. These functional syndromes are complex in etiology and any indication of their risk factors would benefit health care professionals managing this population. Therefore, we aimed to investigate the association between exposure to IPV with functional syndromes: fibromyalgia and CFS.

We conducted a retrospective open cohort study using “The Heath Improvement Network” database between January 1, 1995 and December 1, 2017. A total of 18,547 women who were exposed to IPV were each matched by age to four controls who were not exposed (n = 74,188). The main outcome measures were the risk of developing fibromyalgia and CFS. These were presented as adjusted incidence rate ratios (aIRR) with 95% confidence intervals (CIs).

We found that 97 women in the exposed group developed fibromyalgia (incidence rate [IR] = 1.63 per 1,000 person-years) compared to 239 women in the unexposed group (IR = 0.83 per 1,000 person-years). Following adjustment, this translated to an IRR of 1.73 (95% CI = [1.36, 2.22]). Similarly, 19 women developed CFS in the exposed group (IR = 0.32 per 1,000 person-years), compared to 53 in the unexposed group (0.18 per 1,000 person-years), which translates to an aIRR of 1.92 (95% CI = [1.11, 3.33]).

Therefore, we have identified an association between a history of IPV in women and the development of these functional syndromes, which may provide more information to inform the biopsychosocial pathway precipitating the development of fibromyalgia and CFS.

5. Ghali A et al. (2019)
Elevated blood lactate in resting conditions correlate with post-exertional malaise severity in patients with Myalgic encephalomyelitis/Chronic fatigue syndrome.
Scientific Reports 9: 18817.

Elevated blood lactate after moderate exercise was reported in some of patients with myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS). We hypothesised that blood lactate could be also elevated in resting conditions. We aimed investigating the frequency of elevated lactate at rest in ME/CFS patients, and comparing characteristics of ME/CFS patients with and without elevated lactate.

Patients fulfilling international consensus criteria for ME/CFS who attended the internal medicine department of University hospital Angers-France between October 2011 and December 2017 were included retrospectively. All patients were systematically hospitalised for an aetiological workup and overall assessment. We reviewed their medical records for data related to the assessment: clinical characteristics, comorbidities, fatigue features, post-exertional malaise (PEM) severity, and results of 8 lactate measurements at rest. Patients having ≥1 lactate measurement ≥2 mmol/L defined elevated lactate group. The study included 123 patients.

Elevated (n = 55; 44.7%) and normal (n = 68; 55.3%) lactate groups were comparable except for PEM, which was more severe in the elevated lactate group after adjusting for age at disease onset, sex, and comorbidities (OR 2.47, 95% CI: 1.10–5.55).

ME/CFS patients with elevated blood lactate at rest may be at higher risk for more severe PEM. This finding may be of interest in ME/CFS management.

6. Harland MR et al. (2019)
Paediatric chronic fatigue syndrome patients’ and parents’ perceptions of recovery.
BMJ Paediatrics Open 3 (1).

Objectives: Chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME) is common in children and adolescents; however, little is known about how we should define recovery. This study aims to explore perceptions of recovery held by paediatric patients with CFS/ME and their parents.

Methods: Children with CFS/ME and their parents were recruited through a single specialist paediatric CFS/ME service. Data were collected through semistructured interviews with children and parents. The interview questions explored how participants would know if they/their child had recovered from CFS/ME. Thematic analysis was used to identify patterns within the data.

Results: Twenty-one children with CFS/ME, twenty mothers and two fathers were interviewed. Some children found it hard to define recovery as the illness had become a ‘new normal’. Others thought recovery would indicate returning to pre-morbid levels of activity or achieving the same activity level as peers (socialising, education and leisure activities). Increased flexibility in routines and the absence of payback after activities were important. The interviews highlighted the concept of recovery as highly individual with wide variation in symptoms experienced, type and level of activity that would signify recovery. Parents describe how changes in mood and motivation would signify their child’s recovery, but children did not reflect on this.

Conclusion: Some parents and children struggle to define what would constitute complete recovery. However, signs of recovery were more easily identifiable. Definitions of recovery went far beyond symptom reduction and were focused towards rebuilding lives.

7. Jonsjo MA et al. (2019)
Patients with ME/CFS (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) and chronic pain report similar level of sickness behavior as individuals injected with bacterial endotoxin at peak inflammation.
Health [Epub ahead of print].

Background: Chronic sickness behavior is implicated in ME/CFS (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) and chronic pain but the level of subjective sickness behavior in these conditions has not been investigated or compared to other clinical and non-clinical samples, or to the level in experimental inflammation.

Furthermore, the relationship between sickness behavior and self-rated health and functioning is not known in patients with ME/CFS and chronic pain. The aim of the present study was to investigate how sickness behavior in patients with chronic conditions differs from that in individuals with experimental acute sickness, primary care patients, the general population and healthy subjects. In addition, we wanted to explore how sickness behavior is related to self-rated health and health-related functioning.

Methods: Sickness behavior was quantified using the sickness questionnaire (SicknessQ). Self-ratings were collected at one time-point in 6 different samples. Levels of sickness behavior in patients with ME/CFS (n ​= ​38) and patients with chronic pain (n ​= ​190) were compared to healthy subjects with lipopolysaccharide(LPS)-induced inflammation (n ​= ​29), primary care patients (n ​= ​163), individuals from the general population (n ​= ​155) and healthy subjects (n ​= ​48), using linear regression. Correlations and moderated regression analyses were used to investigate associations between sickness behavior and self-rated health and health-related functioning in ME/CFS, chronic pain and the general population.

Results: LPS-injected individuals (M ​= ​16.3), patients with ME/CFS (M ​= ​16.1), chronic pain (M ​= ​16.1) and primary care patients (M ​= ​10.7) reported significantly higher SicknessQ scores than individuals from the general population (M ​= ​5.4) and healthy subjects (M ​= ​3.6) all p’s ​< ​0.001). In turn, LPS-injected individuals, patients with ME/CFS and chronic pain reported significantly higher SicknessQ scores than primary care patients (p’s ​< ​0.01). Higher levels of sickness behavior were associated with poorer self-rated health and health-related functioning (p’s ​< ​0.01), but less so in patients with ME/CFS and chronic pain than in individuals from the general population.

Conclusions: Patients with ME/CFS and chronic pain report similar high levels of sickness behavior; higher than primary care patients, and comparable to levels in experimental inflammation. Further study of sickness behavior in ME/CFS and chronic pain populations is warranted as immune-to-brain interactions and sickness behavior may be of importance for functioning as well as in core pathophysiological processes in subsets of patients.

8. Mackay A (2019)
A neuro-inflammatory model can explain the onset, symptoms and flare-ups of myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome.
Journal of Primary Health Care 11 (4): 300-307.

A neuro-inflammatory model is proposed to explain the onset, symptoms and perpetuation of myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) via characteristic flare-ups (relapses).

In this article, I explore the proposition that a range of triggers (intense physiological stressors such as severe viral infections, chemical toxin exposure or emotional trauma) in ME/CFS-predisposed people causes disruption in the neural circuitry of the hypothalamus (paraventricular nucleus), which induces a neuro-inflammatory reaction in the brain and central nervous system of ME/CFS patients, via over-active innate immune (glial) cells.

Resulting dysfunction of the limbic system, the hypothalamus and consequently of the autonomic nervous system can then account for the diverse range of ME/CFS symptoms.

Ongoing stressors feed into a compromised (inflamed) hypothalamus and if a certain (but variable) threshold is exceeded, a flare-up will ensue, inducing further ongoing neuro-inflammation in the central nervous system, thus perpetuating the disease indefinitely.

9. Mandarano AH et al. (2019)
Myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome patients exhibit altered T cell metabolism and cytokine associations.
Journal of Clinical Investigation [Epub ahead of print].  

Myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) is a complex disease with no known cause or mechanism. There is an increasing appreciation for the role of immune and metabolic dysfunction in the disease. ME/CFS has historically presented in outbreaks, often has a flu-like onset, and results in inflammatory symptoms. Patients suffer from severe fatigue and post-exertional malaise. There is little known about the metabolism of specific immune cells in ME/CFS patients.

To investigate immune metabolism in ME/CFS, we isolated CD4+ and CD8+ T cells from 53 ME/CFS patients and 45 healthy controls. We analyzed glycolysis and mitochondrial respiration in resting and activated T cells, along with markers related to cellular metabolism, and plasma cytokines.

We found that ME/CFS CD8+ T cells have reduced mitochondrial membrane potential compared to healthy controls. Both CD4+ and CD8+ T cells from ME/CFS patients had reduced glycolysis at rest, while CD8+ T cells also had reduced glycolysis following activation. ME/CFS patients had significant correlations between measures of T cell metabolism and plasma cytokine abundance that differed from healthy control subjects.

Our data indicate that patients have impaired T cell metabolism consistent with ongoing immune alterations in ME/CFS that may illuminate the mechanism behind this disease.

10. May M et al. (2019)
Post-exertional malaise is associated with greater symptom burden and psychological distress in patients diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
Journal of Psychosomatic Research 129: 109893.

Objective: Post-exertional malaise (PEM) is often considered a cardinal symptom of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). There is no gold standard diagnostic method for CFS, however, and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Fukuda case definition does not require PEM. Research has identified differences in symptom burden between patients according to PEM, but whether it is associated with psychological distress has not been investigated.

Methods: The CDC CFS Inventory, Fatigue Symptom Inventory, Profile of Mood States, Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale, Perceived Stress Scale, and subscales of the Sickness Impact Profile were administered to 261 patients diagnosed with the Fukuda criteria. PEM status (loPEM/hiPEM) was determined via self-reported post-exertional fatigue severity. Analyses of covariance (ANCOVA), controlling for age and gender, assessed cross-sectional group differences, and cross-sectional linear regressions using the continuous PEM severity predictor paralleled these analyses.

Results: hiPEM patients reported greater symptom intensity, frequency, and interference than loPEM counterparts (p's < .001). hiPEM patients also reported greater social disruption, depressive symptoms, and mood disturbance (p's ≤ .011). Groups did not differ in recent negative life experiences, perceived stress, or demographic variables. The results of regression analyses mirrored those of ANCOVAs.

Conclusion: This study replicates the association between PEM and symptom burden and additionally associates PEM with psychological distress; psychological distress could, however, be a consequence of symptom burden. Differences between hiPEM and loPEM CFS patients highlight the heterogeneity of diagnoses resulting from the Fukuda criteria. It is also possible that PEM identifies particularly distressed patients for whom psychological intervention would be most beneficial.

11. Naviaux RK (2019)
Perspective: Cell Danger Response Biology—The New Science that Connects Environmental Health with Mitochondria and the Rising Tide of Chronic Illness.
Mitochondrion [Epub ahead of print].

This paper is written for non-specialists in mitochondrial biology to provide access to an important area of science that has broad implications for all people. The cell danger response (CDR) is a universal response to environmental threat or injury. Once triggered, healing cannot be completed until the choreographed stages of the CDR are returned to an updated state of readiness.

Although the CDR is a cellular response, it has the power to change human thought and behavior, child development, physical fitness and resilience, fertility, and the susceptibility of entire populations to disease. Mitochondria regulate the CDR by monitoring and responding to the physical, chemical, and microbial conditions within and around the cell. In this way, mitochondria connect cellular health to environmental health.

Over 7,000 chemicals are now made or imported to the US for industrial, agricultural, and personal care use in amounts ranging from 25,000 to over 1 million pounds each year, and plastic waste now exceeds 83 billion pounds/year. This chemical load creates a rising tide of manmade pollutants in the oceans, air, water, and food chain. Fewer than 5% of these chemicals have been tested for developmental toxicity. In the 1980s, 5-10% of children lived with a chronic illness. As of 2018, 40% of children, 50% of teens, 60% of adults under age 65, and 90% of adults over 65 live with chronic illness.

Several studies now report the presence of dozens to hundreds of manmade chemicals and pollutants in placenta, umbilical cord blood, and newborn blood spots. New methods in metabolomics and exposomics allow scientists to measure thousands of chemicals in blood, air, water, soil, and the food chain. Systematic measurements of environmental chemicals can now be correlated with annual and regional patterns of childhood illness. These data can be used to prepare a prioritized list of molecules for congressional action, ranked according to their impact on human health.

12. Rowe K (2019)
Paediatric patients with myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome value understanding and help to move on with their lives.
Acta Paediatrica [Epub ahead of print].

Aim: The aim of this study was to document qualitative questionnaire feedback regarding management from a cohort observational study of young people with myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS).

Methods: Between 1991 and 2009, 784 paediatric patients, age 6‐18 years, were diagnosed with ME/CFS following referral to a specialised clinic at the Royal Children's Hospital, Melbourne. Over a 14‐year period, feedback was requested on up to seven occasions.

Management included the following: symptom management and a self‐management lifestyle plan that included social, educational, physical and a pleasurable activity outside of home. They adjusted it by severity of illness, stage of education, family circumstances and life interests.

Results: Questionnaires were returned from 626 (80%) with 44% providing feedback more than once. They reported that their management plan allowed them to regain control over their lives. They cited early diagnosis, empathetic, informed physicians, self‐management strategies and educational liaison as helping them to function and remain socially engaged. Ongoing support, particularly assistance to navigate the education system, was essential for general well‐being and ability to cope.

Conclusion: Young people valued regaining the control over their lives that was lost through illness, support to maintain social contacts and assistance to achieve educational and/or life goals.

13. Royds J et al. (2019)
An investigation into the modulation of T cell phenotypes by amitriptyline and nortriptyline.
European Neuropsychopharmacology [Epub ahead of print].

Amitriptyline is prescribed for treating the symptoms of neuroinflammatory disorders including neuropathic pain and fibromyalgia. As amitriptyline has evidence of modulating the neuroimmune interface; the effects of amitriptyline treatment on T-cell phenotype and function were examined in vitro.

Peripheral blood mononuclear cells(PBMCs) were isolated and treated with amitriptyline, nortriptyline and a combination of both drugs. Toxicity for T-cells was assessed by Annexin V/Propidium Iodide staining. Activation status and cytokine expression by T-cells post treatment was assessed by flow cytometry. The levels of secreted cytokines, chemokines and neurotrophins were measured by ELISA in the supernatants.

There was no significant increase in T-cell death following 24 or 48 h compared to controls. There were significantly lower frequencies of CD8+ T-cells after treatment with amitriptyline, nortriptyline and a combination of both compared to a Vehicle Control(VC)(p<0.001). The frequencies of naive CD8+CD45RA+ cells were significantly lower after amitriptyline, nortriptyline and a combination of both (p<0001). The frequencies of CD27+CD4+(p<0.05) and CD27+CD8+(p<0.01) T-cells were also significantly lower following combination drug treatment. Significantly lower frequencies of IFN-γ-producing CD8+ T-cells were observed with all treatment combinations(p<0.05) and frequencies of IL-17-producing CD4+ and CD8+ T-cells were significantly lower following amitriptyline treatment (p<0.05). Frequencies of Natural Killer T-cells were significantly higher following treatment with nortriptyline (p<0.05). Significantly higher levels of IL-16 (p<0.001) and lower levels of TNF-β (p<0.05) were observed in supernatants.

This data indicates that both amitriptyline and nortriptyline modulate the phenotype and function of T-cells and this may have clinical relevance in the pathologies of its off-label applications.

14. Saugstad OD (2019)
Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) in the Young. Time to Repent.
Acta Paediatrica [Epub ahead of print].


15. Son C (2019)
Minireview for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and its Medical Attention recently.
Journal of Korean Medicine 40 (4): 84-90.

Objectives: Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a debilitating illness impairing seriously quality of life, while CFS would be an optimized target disorder of Korean medicine. This study aims to present the recent information especially in aspect of medical policy and new diagnosis criteria for CFS.

Methods: The literature survey was conducted using the terms of “chronic fatigue syndrome”, “myalgic encephalomyelitis” and “fibromyalgia” in PubMed database and Google database in its entirety from January 2011 to February 2019. The in-depth review was made focusing on the changes in policy and medical perspective for CFS.

Results: Recently large medical attentions and researches for CFS have been existed worldwide. By supporting of USA government, IOM made a report which leaded to a turning point in clinical practices and research in 2015. This report recommended a new name of CFS to systemic exertion intolerance disease (SEID), and new diagnostic criteria focusing on post-exertional malaise, unrefreshing sleep, cognitive impairment and orthostatic intolerance. The medical perspective also was changed into “a serious, chronic, complex, systemic disease” from a psychological-like disorder, and then UAS and EU governments sharply increased the research grants.

Conclusions: This study provided practitioners in Korean medicine (KM) a core information about the recent changes in CFS-related perspectives. This review would be helpful for KM-derived researches or therapeutics development for CFS.

16. Strand EB et al. (2019)
Myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS): Investigating care practices pointed out to disparities in diagnosis and treatment across European Union.
PLoS One [Epub ahead of print].

ME/CFS is a chronic, complex, multisystem disease that often limits the health and functioning of the affected patients. Diagnosing patients with ME/CFS is a challenge, and many different case definitions exist and are used in clinical practice and research. Even after diagnosis, medical treatment is very challenging. Symptom relief and coping may affect how patients live with their disease and their quality of life. There is no consensus on which diagnostic criteria should be used and which treatment strategies can be recommended for patients.

The purpose of the current project was to map the landscape of the Euromene countries in respect of national guidelines and recommendations for case definition, diagnosis and clinical approaches for ME/CFS patients. A 23 items questionnaire was sent out by email to the members of Euromene. The form contained questions on existing guidelines for case definitions, treatment/management of the disease, tests and questionnaires applied, and the prioritization of information for data sampling in research.

We obtained information from 17 countries. Five countries reported having national guidelines for diagnosis, and five countries reported having guidelines for clinical approaches. For diagnostic purposes, the Fukuda criteria were most often recommended, and also the Canadian Consensus criteria, the International Consensus Criteria and the Oxford criteria were used. A mix of diagnostic criteria was applied within those countries having no guidelines. Many different questionnaires and tests were used for symptom registration and diagnostic investigation.

For symptom relief, pain and anti-depressive medication were most often recommended. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Graded Exercise treatment were often recommended as disease management and rehabilitative/palliative strategies.

The lack of consistency in recommendations across European countries urges the development of regulations, guidance and standards. The results of this study will contribute to the harmonization of diagnostic criteria and treatment for ME/CFS in Europe.

17. Takakura S et al. (2019)
Changes in circulating microRNA after recumbent isometric yoga practice by patients with myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome: an explorative pilot study.
Biopsychosocial Medicine 13: 29.

Background: Yoga is a representative mind-body therapy. Our previous studies have demonstrated that isometric yoga (i.e. yoga programs that we developed so individuals can practice yoga poses with a self-adjustable isometric load) reduces the fatigue of patients with myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS); however, the underlying mechanisms remain unclear.

Several studies have suggested that the micro-ribonucleic acid (miRNA) expression of ME/CFS patients is different from that of healthy subjects. However, it has not to date been determined if the practice of isometric yoga can affect miRNA expression. Therefore, we sought to investigate if isometric yoga is associated with changes in the expression levels of serum miRNA of patients with ME/CFS.

Methods: The study included nine patients with ME/CFS who failed to show satisfactory improvement after at least 6 months of treatment administered at our hospital. Patients practiced recumbent isometric yoga for 3 months; they met with a yoga instructor every 2 to 4 weeks and participated in daily in-home sessions. The effect of recumbent isometric yoga on fatigue was assessed by comparing pre- and post-intervention scores on the Japanese version of the 11-item Chalder fatigue scale (CFQ 11). Patient blood samples were drawn pre- and post-intervention, just prior to practicing recumbent isometric yoga with an instructor. The serum was used for miRNA array analysis with known human miRNAs.

Results: The average CFQ 11 score decreased significantly (from 25.3 ± 5.5 to 17.0 ± 5.8, p <  0.0001) after practicing recumbent isometric yoga for 3 months. The miRNA microarray analysis revealed that four miRNAs were significantly upregulated, and 42 were downregulated after the intervention period.

Conclusions: This explorative pilot study is the first to demonstrate changes in the serum levels of several miRNAs after regular practice of recumbent isometric yoga. These miRNAs might represent biomarkers for the fatigue-relieving effects of isometric yoga of patients with ME/CFS.

18. Zalewski P et al. (2019)
The Impact of a Structured Exercise Programme upon Cognitive Function in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Patients.
Brain Science 10 (1): 4.

Background: Cognitive function disturbance is a frequently described symptom of myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS). In this study, the effects of a structured exercise programme (SEP) upon cognitive function in ME/CFS patients was examined.

Methods: Out of the 53 ME/CFS patients initiating SEP 34 (64%) completed the 16 week programme. Cognitive function was assessed using a computerized battery test consisting of a Simple Reaction Time (SRT) (repeated three times) and Choice Reaction Time (CRT) measurements, a Visual Attention Test (VAT) and a Delayed Matching to Sample (DMS) assessment.

Results: Statistically significant improvement was noted in the third attempt to SRT in reaction time for correct answers, p = 0.045, r = 0.24. Moreover, significant improvement was noted in VAT reaction time, number of correct answers and errors committed, p = 0.02, omega = 0.03, p = 0.007, r = 0.34 and p = 0.004, r = 0.35, respectively. Non-significant changes were noted in other cognitive tests.

Conclusions: A substantial number of participants were unwilling or unable to complete the exercise programme. ME/CFS patients able to complete the SEP showed improved visual attention both in terms of reaction time and correctness of responses and processing speed of simple visual stimuli.

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