Spinal fluid proteins separate Lyme disease from CFS

After the visible symptoms associated with Lyme disease (a bulls-eye rash) go away, some patients continue to suffer extreme tiredness--a symptom that is often mistaken for chronic fatigue syndrome. So, how can a physician tell the difference between the two? A new study reports that protein biomarkers in spinal fluid can clear up the confusion.

A team led by Steven E. Schutzer of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey and Richard D. Smith, of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory suggested that both conditions involve the central nervous system and that protein abnormalities in the central nervous system are causes and/or effects.

"Spinal fluid is like a liquid window to the brain," Schutzer said in a news release. By studying the spinal fluid, the research team hoped to find abnormalities that could be used as markers of each condition and could lead to improvements in diagnosis and treatment.

The Wall Street Journal's Health Blog reports that the team identified 738 proteins found in the chronic fatigue syndrom patients, but not healthy people or the treated Lyme patients. And they identified 692 proteins in the treated Lyme patients that weren't in either CFS patients or healthy controls. It is still a long list of proteins left over. So, the next step is to start "narrowing it down to find candidate biomarkers," Schutzer told the Health Blog.

- read the release
- check out the WSJ's Health Blog report
- and the open-access study in PLoS One