In the early 2000s, seven decades after chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) was first recorded by doctors, those who suffered from the disease still struggled to convince the world that something was physically wrong with them. Then as now, the disease — known outside the U.S. as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME)— had no diagnostic test, no biomarker or telltale biological sign that the sufferer was ill, and no treatment approved by the Food and DrugAdministration.
But in Southern California, a group called the Workwell Foundation had been successfully verifying ME/CFS by having patients complete two consecutivestandard VO2 max tests, which measure the maximum amount of oxygen a person can use during intense exercise, to gauge cardiovascular fitness and aerobic endurance. Where healthy people and those with other illnesses are able to reproduce their first-day performance on day two, those with ME/CFShave significant drop–offs.
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