An intense battery of medical and psychological tests of people with chronic fatigue syndrome has strengthened the idea that the mysterious ailment is actually a collection of five or more conditions with varying genetic and environmental causes, scientists reported yesterday.
In the movie I Remember Me, the immunologist Nancy Klimas talks about how researching CFIDS/ME is like putting together a puzzle in which you don't know how many pieces are involved and you don't have the picture to tell you what the finished puzzle looks like. But actually, it's most likely five or six different puzzles with all the same subsequent information lacking.
I do wonder though about the conclusion that "the brains and immune systems of affected people do not respond normally to physical and psychological stresses." Like I said, I haven't read through the study, but, well, how would they know that when people who are suffering from a debilitating illness and are therefore living with a higher level of stress than healthy controls are not responding normally to stress? Cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy or those with congestive heart failure -- illnesses with a similar level of debility -- were not studied along with those in the Witchita study.
Needless to say other media sources treated the story absolutely abysmally, including trotting out the tired old "chronic fatigue syndrome may actually be real" blah blah blah.
Yahoo! News begins with "Chronic fatigue syndrome appears to result from something in people's genetic makeup that reduces their ability to deal with physical and psychological stress" (yeah I wouldn't at all be adept at dealing with stress while being an academic, losing my career, going through the two-year-long Social Security gauntlet, and living with chronic pain) then moves on to my all-time most annoying comment whenever there is a story about a CFIDS/ME research breakthrough: "the research is being called some of the first credible scientific evidence..."
The Los Angeles Times starts off with "Chronic fatigue syndrome, often dismissed as the imaginings of depressed and whiny people, is caused by genetic mutations that impair the central nervous system's ability to adapt to stressful situations..." Oh so good to know I'm not just a whiny person imagining all this pain and weakness. They also have a quote from the director of the CDC, Julia Gerberding, stating that "this is the first credible evidence for a biological basis." Because, you know, the 3000 scientific papers that have been published about CFIDS/ME over the last twenty years have given us nothing apparently.
After several more digs at us being possible slackers and hysterical women, we get "diagnosis is difficult because many of the psychological symptoms, in mild form, are common traits of a modern stressful life."
Psychological symptoms?? There are no psychological symptoms listed in the Fukuda et. al. diagnosis.
At any rate, there's a whole lot of stuff to keep researchers busy for awhile. Though five years from now reporters will still be saying that any new finding is finally proof that CFIDS/ME isn't all in our heads.