There are a growing number of people diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome every year. While those suffering from the disease struggle with extreme amounts of tiredness and fatigue, those around them often doubt their symptoms. Many people have come to doubt the existence of chronic fatigue syndrome and some people have coined the term “yuppie flu” to describe the disease.
Doctors first began to use the term chronic fatigue syndrome around 1988. People in the Lake Tahoe, Nevada area started to exhibit symptoms of tiredness that had a significant impact on their life and ability to function. They also struggled with sore throats, headaches and muscle pain.
For a long time, the main treatment for people with CFS was psychiatric, which has lead many that were diagnosed with the condition to complain that the disease is not taken seriously as a physical ailment. CFS has now become synonymous as a post-viral syndrome that often comes about after people are infected with the Epstein-Barr virus and Mononucleosis.
Without A Biological Cause, No One Took It Seriously
There has been a large amount of research centered on discovering an underlying cause behind the disease. Multiple times throughout the history of the virus teams of scientist claimed to have found a cure. A paper published in 2009 stated that it had discovered a link between a virus commonly found in mice and CFS. The paper was then found to be invalid and no teams were able to replicate the results.
A Chance Finding Showed The Immune System May Play A Role In CFS
A patient at the Haukeland University Hospital in Norway was being treated for lymphoma also had CFS. As the treatments for lymphoma commenced, the patient started to notice that their CFS symptoms began to weaken. After a few months, all of the symptoms of CFS had disappeared.
The lymphoma treatment was using a drug called Rituximab that kills a large majority of the body’s B-cells. These cells are used in the body to create antibodies that fight infection.
The chance discovery of a cure for this particular patient prompted scientists to conduct a small study examining the potential of Rituximab to treat the disease. In 10 of the 15 people studied, all symptoms of CFS were erased.
“It’s the most encouraging drug result so far in the history of this disease,” said Charles Shepherd, a medical adviser to the UK ME Association.
People taking Rituximab noticed that symptoms began to stop after about four months of taking the drug. This is the approximate time it would take for the body to completely eliminate the B-cells. After the patients stopped using the drug for one year, their symptoms returned. This is about how long it takes for the body to begin to regenerate B-cells.
New Study Offers Promising Results
It’s possible that after a person has an infection, the antibodies that were created to fight it could turn against certain tissues in the body. This could harm the natural blood flow and result in the extreme fatigue that is associated with CFS. Many scientists and researchers that have spent time studying this disease believe this could be the breakthrough they have been waiting for.
“There is now a strong case to be made for a larger trial. The belief that CFS is all in the mind has been around since the beginning. It’s tragic that it might take a study like this to take sufferers seriously,” said Simon Wesley, a doctor at King’s College of London.
If these findings prove to be true, a greater amount of legitimacy would be given to those suffering from CFS. A follow up study is under way that hopes to look at a larger group of 150 people, as well as a control group.