2010: the Year in ME/CFS Research – A Pre- International Workshop Overview Pt I

Posted by Cort Johnson

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5287-puzzle-lg.jpgAs the International Workshop on Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS) approaches now is a good time to look at where we are. The Workshop is just two days but it’s a big deal because it will present where the state of XMRV, of course, dominated our interest last year but quite a bit of other research took place and this is the research that will take center stage at the Workshop. That is what this overview will focus on. Let’s see how ME/CFS researchers are putting the pieces together 25 plus years into this illness. ME/CFS research is to the world and should lead to a major grant opportunity from the NIH.

The data below was taken from a Pubmed search of all research done in 2010 with the words “chronic fatigue syndrome”. A few studies on ME/CFS which did not have CFS were also included).

Research Studies (78) – With 86% of research studies focusing on pathophysiology, research into the biological causes of ME/CFS dominated the research agenda (as it always has). The single most researched area, however, was psychology -which is important because the more research an area gets the more opportunities it has to build on itself. If you look at the total number of published articles (not studies, articles) then the amount of print devoted to psychology would probably dwarf any other single topic since behavioral therapies dominated the treatment agenda. A key problem with ME/CFS is that the research is spread out all over the body resulting only a few studies focusing on any one area – a sure recipe for slow movement in any one area

Psychology was followed by immune/neuro-immune studies with exercise studies, somewhat surprisingly but quite encouragingly coming in third place – an indication that this topic is finally catching hold. Oxidative stress and the brain were next with the HPA axis and genes/gene expression, in something of a surprise, just below them – as they used to be more major topics. Autonomic nervous system studies were at the same level and will probably pick up in the coming years. Pathogen studies, other than XMRV remain at at low levels.

‘Clinical’ studies (30) – focusing on what ME/CFS looks like, how to diagnose it, its symptom presentation, average level of functioning, clinicians and patients experiences, etc. continue to be a major interest with a study appearing about every other week.

Treatment Studies (28) – the treatment agenda remains dominated by behavioral therapies with 2/3rds of all studies focused on one form or another of behavioral modification (CBT/GET, Pacing, coping, etc.)

The Breakdown – 186 publications

Research Studies

  • XMRV – 12
  • Psychology – 11
  • Immune-Neuroimmune – 8
  • Exercise – 7
  • Oxidative Stress – 6
  • Brain/Nervous System- 6
  • Autonomic Nervous System – 5
  • HPA axis/hormones – 4
  • Sleep – 4
  • Animal modeling – 4
  • Genes/Gene Expression – 3
  • Cognition – 3
  • Pathogens – 2
  • Amino Acids – 1
  • Vascular – 1
  • Metabolic Syndrome – 1

Epidemiology/Symptom Characterization/Diagnosis/Functioning – 30

Treatment – 28

  • General Behavioral (Pacing, coping, etc) – 10
  • CBT/GET – 8
  • Pharmaceutical Drugs – 6
  • Alternative Treatments – 3
  • Physical therapy – 1

Reviews/Hypotheses – 16
Letters/Short Editorials – 34

Over the next week I see what I can glean from the different categories. Next up an overview of the Exercise Studies from 2010.

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