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Centre de recherche
Thursday, November 12 2020
Press release

An innovative clinical diagnostic test to diagnose myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME)

MONTREAL, November 12, 2020 – Myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), better known as chronic fatigue syndrome, is a complex chronic disease whose etiology remains poorly understood, although it affects approximately 600,000 Canadians and up to 2.5 million people in the United States. To date, there has been no validated blood diagnostic biomarker or test to diagnose the disease. A team from CHU Sainte-Justine and Université de Montréal, led by Dr. Alain Moreau, full professor in the Faculty of Dentistry and Faculty of Medicine at Université de Montréal, has developed an innovative diagnostic test that makes it possible for the first time to test people with severe ME who cannot participate in clinical studies due to the severity of their condition. The result of this work has just been published in the journal Scientific Reports.

The why

The development of this test represents the first molecular diagnostic tool for ME and one that has been long awaited by many clinicians and patients. It also opens up the possibility of stratifying patients into subgroups to better understand the molecular mechanisms involved in certain symptoms and to better select patients who could benefit from certain therapeutic approaches by repositioning certain existing drugs.

The how

Mechanical stimulation applied to the arm by an inflatable arm cuff causes post-exertional malaise, the primary symptom of ME, and provides a precise molecular signature that makes it possible to differentiate EM patients from normal subjects or those suffering from related conditions such as fibromyalgia. The elevation or reduction of some of the eleven microRNAs measured in the test can help predict the therapeutic response to certain drugs, which improves the chances of finding the right therapy by personalizing the treatment.

The hope

The research team is continuing the project to validate this test in other populations in order to determine whether the biomarkers used here are equally sensitive in detecting ME and equally relevant for launching new clinical trials. Lastly, with the COVID-19 wave, we believe that this test may allow for early detection of ME in people with persistent post-COVID-19 symptoms that are very similar to ME, in order to intervene early to prevent ME.

Our thanks to the partners of this research

This breakthrough was made possible thanks to the support of patients and numerous patient associations in Canada, including the Association Québécoise de l'Encéphalomyélite Myalgique (AQEM).

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CHU Sainte-Justine

For information and interviews:
Florence Meney
Senior Advisor
Media Relations
CHU Sainte-Justine
514-755 2516

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Updated on 11/12/2020
Created on 11/11/2020
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