Queensland researchers hopeful of Chronic Fatigue breakthrough
16 May 2014
Researchers at Griffith University say the discovery of biological markers means they're on the cusp of a breakthrough diagnostic test for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
MATT WORDSWORTH: It can be an incredibly debilitating illness but sufferers have often been maligned as malingerers. Identified in the 1980's Chronic Fatigue Syndrome was labelled yuppie flu. But Queensland Researchers say biological markers show they're on the cusp of a breakthrough. They're hopeful of developing a quick diagnostic test which would eliminate uncertainty and lead to better treatment. Airlie Ward has the details.
(FOOTAGE OF AMITY SLOCKEE LYING ON BED)
AMITY SLOCKEE, CFS SUFFERER: They would do tests and tests would come back negative.
(FOOTAGE OF AMITY SLOCKEE WALKING)
AIRLIE WARD: Watching Amity Slockee walk, it's hard to imagine she was once a vibrant young woman working two jobs.
(MORE FOOTAGE OF AMITY SLOCKEE WHEN HEALTHY)
AMITY SLOCKEE: Up until about 2009 I worked as a kindergarten aid and I also did hospitality work, so they're both quite energetic jobs.
AIRLIE WARD: There had been signs over the past 20 years that not all was well. Despite numerous visits to the doctor the most common diagnosis was depression.
AMITY SLOCKEE: Because none of the testing came back with answers for the doctors you're given that diagnosis of depression but you're also made to feel very much that this is all in your head.
AIRLIE WARD: She suffered from constant and chronic pain that travelled around the body, and stomach and sleep problems.
AMITY SLOCKEE: I got the flu in 2010 towards the end of the year and within a couple of months of that I started noticing that one of my feet was turning in.
AIRLIE WARD: It was to be almost another two years before Chronic Fatigue Syndrome was diagnosed.
DR GREG SCHWARZ, MEDICAL PRACTITIONER: It's often not diagnosed, partly because there is no test for it, there are diagnostic criteria and they're available but often people are simply told they're depressed or it's just ignored.
AIRLIE WARD: Because the illness is often multi-faceted Dr Greg Schwarz says it is difficult to diagnose and treat.
DR GREG SCHWARZ: Most doctors are trained to treat problems with medications and there simply aren't the medications for this sort of condition.
AIRLIE WARD: Immunologist Sonya Marshall Gradisnik is leading a team of researchers into the disease at Griffith University in Queensland.
DR SONYA MARSHALL-GRADISNIK, IMMUNOLOGIST: We need to have a proper diagnosis before we can actually have a treatment. It takes between 12 months and maybe two years for a patient to be diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and it's on an elimination process of other symptoms as well as having some common symptoms.
AIRLIE WARD: Dr Marshall Gradisnik is confident of coming up with a quicker diagnosis.
DR SONYA MARSHALL-GRADISNIK: We're finding unique potential bio-markers, those unique potential bio-makers may be developed into a suite or a diagnostic test or screening test.
AIRLIE WARD: Five years ago Dr Gradisnik decided to investigate changes in immune function in chronic fatigue patients, particularly looking at white blood cells and how they fight infection.
DR SONYA MARSHALL-GRADISNIK: And those results turned out to be very promising that is they were unique in their findings and subsequently we've expanded to very large international research projects.
AIRLIE WARD: There are now 400 people involved in the study including healthy people and those with rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis.
DR SONYA MARSHALL-GRADISNIK: There are cognition problems with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome patients, we find that there are cardiac associated problems with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome patients and importantly find that there is immunological changes. And more recently other researchers are also documenting this neuro inflammation in the cerebral spinal fluid and in the brain.
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