US researchers claim they can detect fibromyalgia with a blood test. Norwegian researcher is skeptical.
Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain condition affecting connective tissue, muscles, ligaments and tendons. The diagnosis does not rule out on tests. The researchers behind a new study hope that their findings can contribute to a simple and rapid diagnosis.
The US researchers claim to have discovered a so-called molecular signature in the blood of patients with fibromyalgia.
People with the disease have often been misdiagnosed or undiagnosed. The lead researcher behind the study, Kevin Hack Shaw, hopes that the finding can be a turning point for patients and that it will be easier to get proper treatment and good advice on how to manage chronic pain.
– We find clear metabolic patterns in the blood of a dozen patients with fibromyalgia. This brings us closer to a blood test than we have ever been, ”Hackshaw said in a press release.
Hard to diagnose
To diagnose fibromyalgia, doctors rely on what the patient tells them about their symptoms. After that, the physician makes a physical assessment of the patient’s pain, focusing on specific points.
– Fibromyalgia is currently incurable. Although treatment is limited to exercise, training and antidepressants, there are many benefits to getting an accurate diagnosis, Hackshaw says.
A diagnosis can rule out other illnesses, confirm that the patient’s pain and symptoms are real, and make it easier for doctors to recognize what they are and thus find appropriate treatment.
“Nothing is worse than being in a gray area where you do not know what disease you have,” another researcher behind the study, Luis Rodriguez-Saona, said in the same press release.
Around 3 to 5 percent of Norway’s population has the disease. About 90 percent of them are women. The reason for developing it is unknown.
Discovered clear patterns
– About 40 percent of patients who suffer from severe painkillers due to chronic pain meet the criteria for being diagnosed with fibromyalgia. Painkillers will often make the disease worse, and certainly not better, says Rodriguez-Saona.
The next step for researchers is a larger clinical test to see if what they discovered in this study can be repeated.
The new study involved 50 people with fibromyalgia, 29 with arthritis, 19 who had osteoarthritis and 23 with lupus.
The researchers examined blood samples from each participant using a technique called vibration spectroscopy. Researchers discovered clear patterns that consistently separated fibromyalgia from those with similar disorders.
First, the researchers analyzed blood samples from participants with different diseases that they already knew about, and then they could see if there was a pattern for each diagnosis further. The other blood tests were tested without the researchers knowing about the participants’ diagnoses. The researchers managed to find the current disease based on the blood tests.
In the next round, researcher Rodriguez-Saona wants to examine 150 to 200 people per disease group to see if their findings will work in a larger, more diverse group.
Maybe the work can lead to the identification of a specific protein or acid or combination of molecules associated with fibromyalgia, says Rodriguez-Saona.
The goal of Hackshaw is to have a test ready for widespread use within five years.
Skeptical of the result
Professor Egil Andreas Fors at NTNU Department of Social Medicine and Nursing is skeptical of the result.
– We do not have to reject it completely, but nothing has been mentioned particularly in the academic environment, Fors says to research.no.
Among other things, the new study claims to be able to distinguish between fibromyalgia and other diseases.
– This is little research, so there is not much else to compare the findings with, explains Fors.
It is still difficult to distinguish between fibromyalgia and other diseases. Many patients may have multiple illnesses at the same time or develop one afterwards.
– It is difficult to say whether a patient has arthritis or fibromyalgia, because it is possible to have both. Therefore, it is difficult to extract something exclusive from a blood test, says Fors.
He still thinks the study is interesting and can make a good contribution to further research.
– This study has not covered a great deal of material, but the findings are promising. It will be exciting if they manage to repeat these findings with a larger material, says Fors.
Kevin V. Hackshaw m.fl: Metabolic fingerprinting for diagnosis of fibromyalgia and other rheumatologic disorders, Journal of Biological Chemistry, 2019Also read this case from the University of Oslo
Fibromyalgia has the lowest prestige
Doctors rate diseases that affect men, consistently higher than those that affect women. Ninety percent of those with fibromyalgia are women.