Will there ever be a test for chronic fatigue syndrome?

September 2, 2021

An article written by Chloe Kent appears in the Medical Device Journal asking whether there is likely to be a definitive test for ME/CFS and the dangers of a test that does not identify all people with the illness. Dr Shepherd is quoted in the piece as shown below.


Treating chronic fatigue syndrome, also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME), starts with getting the right diagnosis – something that, for many patients, can prove elusive. Characterised by debilitating tiredness, the condition is notoriously difficult to pin down and even more challenging to treat

Chloe Kent

A key marker of CFS/ME is post-exertional malaise (PEM), the worsening of symptoms within 12 to 48 hours of even minor physical or mental exertion, that can then last for days or weeks. This symptom was utilised by researchers attempting to develop a molecular test for the disease in a November 2020 study published in Scientific Reports.

Chloe Kent

A key issue that arises during discussions of an objective test for ME is how useful the tool may be in practice. Since there appear to be multiple contributing factors that cause the condition, a test that can only pinpoint one or two may cause problems of its own.

Chloe Kent

You’ve got to end up with a test which is robust and consistent before you introduce it as a gold-standard diagnostic test.

“If you’ve got a test which is fairly accurate but not totally accurate you could end up having people who have a firm blood test diagnosis of CFS/ME and then another group who probably have the condition but don’t have that gold-standard diagnosis.

Dr Charles Shepherd, ME Association honorary medical advisor
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