The symptom spectrum of Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) was first detailed in 1959 and later operationalised into a diagnostic protocol (Melvin Ramsey). In 1988 the Holmes case definition coined the term chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). Fukuda’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention criteria are very heterogeneous and comprise patients with milder symptoms than the Holmes case definition. The CDC Empirical Criteria for CFS lack sensitivity and/or specificity.
Other CFS definitions, e.g. the Oxford criteria, delineate people with idiopathic fatigue. Some authors make the clinical CFS diagnosis when slightly increased self-rated fatigue scores are present.
In 2011, Carruthers’ International Consensus Criteria attempted to restore the focus on selecting people who suffer from ME. Cognitive bias in criteria construction, patient selection, data collection and interpretation has led to the current state of epistemological chaos with ME, CFS, CFS/ME and ME/CFS, and CF being used interchangeably.
Moreover, none of the above mentioned classifications meet statistically based criteria for validation. Diagnostic criteria should be based on statistical methods rather than consensus declarations. Ongoing discussions about which case definition to employ miss the point that the criteria did not pass appropriate external validation.
In 2012, Maes et al. performed pattern recognition methods and concluded that CFS patients (according to Fukuda’s criteria) should be divided into those with CFS or ME, on the basis that people with ME display a worsening of their illness following increases in physical or cognitive activity. Both ME and CFS are complex disorders that share neuro-immune disturbances, which are more severe in ME than in CFS. This paper expands on that strategy and details a range of objective tests, which confirm that a person with ME or CFS has a neuro-immune disease.
By means of pattern recognition methods future research should refine the Maes’ case definitions for ME and CFS by including well-scaled symptoms, staging characteristics and neuro-immune biomarkers, including immune-inflammatory assays, bioenergetic markers and brain imaging.
Case definitions and diagnostic criteria for Myalgic Encephalomyelitis and Chronic fatigue Syndrome: from clinical-consensus to evidence-based case definitions. Morris G, Maes M. Neuro Endocrinol Lett. 2013 May 22;34(3):185-199.