Moving Towards a Clearer Diagnosis of Myalgic Encephalomyelitis

A group of researchers have recently used functional PET imaging to show that levels of neuroinflammation is higher in patients with myalgic encephalomyelitis also commonly referred to as chronic fatigue syndrome than in healthy patients. Myalgic encephalomyelitis or chronic fatigue syndrome is a debilitating condition which is mostly characterized by chronic and disabling fatigue. Some patients feel that chronic fatigue syndrome trivializes the condition and prefer a name change.

In a study in the Journal of Nuclear Medicine researchers found that levels of neuroinflammation markers are elevated in myalgic encephalomyelitis patients when compared to healthy patients. It had been suspected that neuroinflammation is the cause of the condition.

In the study the researchers performed PET scans on nine people diagnosed with myalgic encephalomyelitis and ten people who were healthy. The patients were all asked to describe their pain, depression, cognitive impairment, and level of fatigue. They used a protein expressed by microglia and astrocyte cells known to be active in neuroinflammation.

The researchers found that inflammation in certain areas of the brain such as the hippocampus, amygdala, thalamus, midbrain, cingulate cortex, and pons were all elevated in a way that correlated with the symptoms. For example, patients who reported problems with cognition tended to demonstrate neuroinflammation in the amygdala, which is known to involve cognition.

The study shows that PET scanning could be used in patients with myalgic encephalomyelitis or chronic fatigue syndrome to lead to better diagnosis and development of new therapies to treat the condition. The ultimate goal is to prevent and treat myalgic encephalomyelitis or chronic fatigue syndrome as it can greatly adversely impact those afflicted.

Source : Y. Nakatomi and et al., Neuroinflammation in Patients with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Myalgic Encephalomyelitis: An 11C-(R)-PK11195 PET Study. Journal of Nuclear Medicine.

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