The ME Association End of Week Research Round-up

July 10, 2020

Charlotte Stephens, Research Correspondent, ME Association.

We show below brief summaries of the research studies about ME/CFS that have been published in the last week, followed by the abstracts from those studies.

All research relating to ME/CFS can be located in the Index of ME/CFS Published Research which is correct to the end of June 2020 and can be downloaded for free.

It is an A-Z of the most important published research studies and selected key documents and articles, listed by subject matter, on myalgic encephalomyelitis and/or chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS).

You can use it to easily locate and read any research in a particular area that you might be interested in, e.g. epidemiology, infection, neurology, post-exertional malaise etc.

You can also find the Research Index in the Research section of the website together with a list of Research Summaries from the ME Association that provide lay explanations of the more important and interesting work that has been published to date.

ME/CFS Research Published 03 – 09 July 2020

This week, 2 new research studies have been published:

1. Researchers from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine outlined some recommendations for health care professionals in order to improve care for those severely affected by ME/CFS.

2. A study from the Netherlands compared the effects of a 2-day Cardiopulmonary exercise test (CPET) protocol in female ME/CFS patients with severe vs mild and moderate forms of the disease. All parameters studied decreased significantly on day 2 of the test in all severity groups. However, the peak workload decreases from day 1 to day 2 was largest in the severe ME/CFS group. This is the first study to demonstrate that disease severity negatively influences exercise capacity in female ME/CFS patients.

ME/CFS Research References and Abstracts

1. Kingdon C et al. (2020)
Health Care Responsibility and Compassion-Visiting the Housebound Patient Severely Affected by ME/CFS.
Healthcare 8 (3): 197.

Many people with severe Myalgic Encephalopathy/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS) commonly receive no care from healthcare professionals, while some have become distanced from all statutory medical services.

Paradoxically, it is often the most seriously ill and needy who are the most neglected by those responsible for their healthcare.

Reasons for this include tensions around the complexity of making an accurate diagnosis in the absence of a biomarker, the bitter debate about the effectiveness of the few available treatments, and the very real stigma associated with the diagnosis.

Illness severity often precludes attendance at healthcare facilities, and if an individual is well enough to be able to attend an appointment, the presentation will not be typical; by definition, patients who are severely affected are home-bound and often confined to bed.

We argue that a holistic model, such as ‘‘Compassion in Practice’’, can help with planning appointments and caring for people severely affected by ME/CFS. We show how this can be used to frame meaningful interactions between the healthcare practitioners (HCPs) and the homebound patient.

2. Van Campen et al. (2020)
Two-Day Cardiopulmonary Exercise Testing in Females with a Severe Grade of Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: Comparison with Patients with Mild and Moderate Disease.
Healthcare 8 (3): 192.

Introduction: Effort intolerance along with a prolonged recovery from exercise and post-exertional exacerbation of symptoms are characteristic features of myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS).

The gold standard to measure the degree of physical activity intolerance is cardiopulmonary exercise testing (CPET). Multiple studies have shown that peak oxygen consumption is reduced in the majority of ME/CFS patients, and that a 2-day CPET protocol further discriminates between ME/CFS patients and sedentary controls.

Limited information is present on ME/CFS patients with a severe form of the disease. Therefore, the aim of this study was to compare the effects of a 2-day CPET protocol in female ME/CFS patients with a severe grade of the disease to mildly and moderately affected ME/CFS patients.

Methods and results: We studied 82 female patients who had undergone a 2-day CPET protocol. Measures of oxygen consumption (VO2), heart rate (HR) and workload both at peak exercise and at the ventilatory threshold (VT) were collected.

ME/CFS disease severity was graded according to the International Consensus Criteria. Thirty-one patients were clinically graded as having mild disease, 31 with moderate and 20 with severe disease.

Baseline characteristics did not differ between the 3 groups. Within each severity group, all analyzed CPET parameters (peak VO2, VO2 at VT, peak workload and the workload at VT) decreased significantly from day-1 to day-2 (p-Value between 0.003 and <0.0001).

The magnitude of the change in CPET parameters from day-1 to day-2 was similar between mild, moderate, and severe groups, except for the difference in peak workload between mild and severe patients (p = 0.019). The peak workload decreases from day-1 to day-2 was largest in the severe ME/CFS group (−19 (11) %).

Conclusion: This relatively large 2-day CPET protocol study confirms previous findings of the reduction of various exercise variables in ME/CFS patients on day-2 testing.

This is the first study to demonstrate that disease severity negatively influences exercise capacity in female ME/CFS patients.

Finally, this study shows that the deterioration in peak workload from day-1 to day-2 is largest in the severe ME/CFS patient group.

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