By Rachel Black in Bateman Horne Center.
Do you have irritable bowel syndrome? If you do, you’re not alone – the presence of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) alongside ME/CFS may constitute a distinct ME/CFS subgroup. This article reviews and summarizes a new research paper Dr. Bateman and colleagues published on July 3, 2018, titled Insights into myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome phenotypes through comprehensive metabolomics. The study examines how IBS interacts with ME/CFS and draws participants from four sites across the United States, ultimately recruiting 50 individuals with ME/CFS and 50 healthy matched controls.
Of these 50 ME/CFS participants, 24 people, or 48%, had IBS. This rate is far higher than the general population, in which IBS is present in only 10% to 20%. Since it is estimated that 35% to 90% of the ME/CFS population have IBS, a connection between the two diseases seems clear. Further, there are distinct metabolic differences between people with ME/CFS and IBS, and people with ME/CFS but no IBS. Taken together, ME/CFS subgroups of patients with and without IBS are beginning to take form.
Why are subgroups important? In a nutshell, identifying subgroups improves the usefulness of the resulting treatments, similar to how we treat people for lung cancer or breast cancer instead of for cancer generally. This is especially important for ME/CFS — since there are so many variations to the disease, a one-size-fits-all treatment is unlikely. Subgroups therefore let us target treatment to more individualized circumstances.
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