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If this article is too long for your energy levels, please see at the bottom for a quick summary.

You have probably heard us tell you that different treatments will work for different people. What works for one of you might not be so helpful for another. There are many reasons for this. A research group looked into one possible reason, in Immunological Patient Stratification in Myalgic Encephalomyelitis / Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

The researchers investigated 39 ME / CFS patients, and found that these patients could be separated into two distinct subgroups: Those with a functioning immune system and those with immunodeficiencies (A failure or absence of a part / parts of the immune system). The two groups were then compared with each other and with a group of healthy participants.

Because so many people with ME / CFS experience difficulties with their gut health, the researchers decided to look at the gut health of each of these groups. Specifically, they looked at the mucosal intestinal barrier. The mucosal intestinal barrier is the part of the intestine that lets through nutrients (Food) while keeping out harmful substances. If this barrier becomes more permeable, or ‘leaky’, it may let through harmful substances. The researchers wanted to see if the ME / CFS participants have problems with this layer, and whether these problems are different for those with healthy immune systems and those without.

I will briefly go over the outcomes of this research. I won’t go into detail about the research and the scientific terms as I think it is more important to focus on what this research means for you, but you are welcome to contact me if you would like a more indepth conversation.

Firstly, the researchers found that ME / CFS patients with immunodeficiencies had lower C4A levels compared to the participants with healthy immune systems (C4A is a protein that is important for your immune system functioning).

Secondly they found that the ME / CFS patients without immodeficiencies – Those whose immune system is healthy – Have elevated levels of the barrier marker LBP. Without going into too much detail, increased LBP is a sign that bacteria is able to go from the intestine, through the mucosal intestinal barrier, into the blood stream.

This should not happen in healthy intestines. The research also found that these patients likely do not have good homeostasis of gut microbiota. This means that the growth and type of bacteria in these patients’ intestines is not stable. A good stable population of bacteria in the gut is important for maintaining a healthy mucosal intestinal barrier. Interestingly, those ME / CFS patients with immune system problems generally did not have increased LBP.

In other words, one group has problems with their immune system, while the other has problems with their intestines. That is a big difference between two groups with the same illness. 

So, what does this mean for you? Firstly, it is very positive that these researchers are looking at subgroups of ME / CFS. By doing so, they are able to find clear patterns. If the two groups were not looked at separately, they would find no clear results and make no real progress. They would never be able to find a treatment that works, as the different groups will almost certainly need different treatments. A better understanding of the different types of ME / CFS will hopefully lead to real progress in understanding the illness. It is also possible that more subgroups of ME / CFS exist.

Secondly, this research could pave the way for blood tests that are able to diagnose ME / CFS (Testing for lowered C4A or increased LBP). This would make  a huge difference not just for a much easier diagnosis journey but also in terms of accessing support.

However, please be aware that this is just one research project. These results would need to be confirmed with further research, and unfortunately medical research is painfully slow. It is good news, but it is just one rung in the ladder. That being said, it looks like an excellent step in the right direction. Watch this space!

Quick Summary

Researchers have found that people with ME / CFS can be split into two groups: Those with
immune problems, and those with gut problems – Bacteria leaking into the bloodstream from the intestine.

If this research is correct, it means that a lot of the confusion around the cause and mechanisms of ME / CFS might be due to the fact that it is actually two (Or more) separate illnesses that are being studied as one illness. If they can be researched separately, progress will be made much faster. In addition, this
research may have found blood tests that could be used to diagnose people with ME / CFS – Those with immune system problems have less of the protein C4A, and those with gut problems have increased amounts of a substance called LBP.

More research is needed to confirm these discoveries, but if they are correct it is a very exciting step in the right direction.

To read the full article, please click here.

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