The U.S. Centres for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention announced on Thursday, that they have identified certain genetic traits common to people who suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), which could strongly suggesting a genetic basis for the condition.
The genetic make-up identified by the researchers involves the body's ability to adapt to change and to withstand common life stresses such as injuries and infections. A comprehensive study made by the CDC team on 227 chronic fatigue syndrome patients showed several genetic differences, the team found. CDC Director Dr. Julie Gerberding told reporters in a telephone briefing that this is really the first credible evidence for a biological basis for chronic fatigue syndrome.
Dr. William Reeves, who heads CDC's chronic fatigue syndrome public health research program, said that this was the first time ever that they had documented that people with CFS have certain genes that are related to the parts of the brain activity that mediate the stress response. He also explained that added there might be different gene activity levels that are related to the body's ability to adapt to stresses like aging, illness, and others that occur through life.
A range of symptoms, like fatigue, swollen lymph nodes, and headaches, problems with memory and concentration and often pain, defines chronic fatigue syndrome, which reports estimate that about 1 million people suffer from in the US. Dr.Reeves was of the opinion that the average family in which a member suffers from CFS loses an estimated $20,000 a year in lost earnings and savings. The CDC team said that they extensively studied 227 volunteers with chronic fatigue syndrome who had spent at least two days in a hospital ward. Their blood samples were studied, they were watched, monitored, and the activity of 20,000 genes were analysed, as they slept. They reported this in their writings of the April issue of Pharmacogenomics. The journal also published more than a dozen papers by researchers asserting a biological basis for the syndrome.
Dr. Suzanne Vernon, Molecular Epidemiology Team Leader for the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Research Laboratory, explained that the CDC used a new multidisciplinary approach, which it calls Computational Challenge. By this they created a molecular profile of each patient. She said that they then put together four teams of different experts and challenged them to develop ways to integrate and analyse a wide range of medical data so as to identify those things that could improve the diagnosis, treatment, or understanding of CFS.
Dr. Suzanne Vernon added that with this finding they are closest for being able to predict how someone might for instance respond to medications. Dr Gerberding said the new approach, which uses genetics to look for causes of disease on a population-wide level, might also be applied to diseases such as autism, which many experts also believe may be caused by an underlying genetic susceptibility.