New Study Pioneers Method to Measure Myalgic Encephalomyelitis Severity

A recent study published in the Journal of Translational Medicine describes an accurate and objective approach that aims to evaluate the severity of myalgic encephalomyelitis, also known as chronic fatigue syndrome. This method involves the use of sensors in order to measure how much time the patient spends each day with their feet planted on the ground (standing position), a measure referred to in this study as “UpTime.” The approach could be used as a future measure of therapy effectiveness. This condition is estimated to impact as many as 2.5 million people in the US.

About Myalgic Encephalomyelitis

Myalgic encephalomyelitis, also known as chronic fatigue syndrome, is a rare condition which is most characterized by long term fatigue and other symptoms which severely impact a person’s ability to fulfill daily tasks. The exact cause of the syndrome is poorly understood. Risk factors may include family history, low physical fitness, old age, mental health problems, and allergies. Females are also more likely to get myalgic encephalomyelitis than males. The characteristic symptom is severe, persistent fatigue that has no definitive cause and is not resolved with rest; other symptoms include difficulty sleeping, worsening of symptoms following exercise, night sweats, sensitivities to certain foods, noise, or odors, muscle and joint pain, headaches, irritable bowel syndrome, and sore throat. Symptoms may appear gradually or suddenly, and in severe cases can leave a patient bedridden. Some treatments may include energy management strategies such as pacing and changes in diet. To learn more about myalgic encephalomyelitis, click here.

About The Study

The study utilized an inertial measurement unit sensor called the Shimmer. The study included a total of 15 participants, and the study period lasted for six days. The participants included five individuals that served as a healthy control group, five patients with disease that was considered moderate, and five patients with disease that was considered severe.

Participants’ UpTime was evaluated using the Shimmer. In addition, the participants were asked to self report their activity as well. Compared to the sensor assessments, the participants tended to over-estimate their UpTime. The UpTime assessment using the Shimmer appeared to be a significant indicator of disease severity. The healthy controls spent more than 30 percent of their day with their feet planted on the ground. The moderate group spent between 20 and 30 percent of the time with their feet planted; for the severe group, their UpTime percentage was less than 20 percent. 

The researchers determined from their findings that UpTime was an accurate measure of disease severity and could be an effective endpoint for assessing potential treatments.

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