Inclusion of family members without ME/CFS in research studies promotes discovery of biomarkers specific for ME/CFS

Work. 2020;66(2):327-337. doi: 10.3233/WOR-203177.


Background: The search for a biomarker specific for Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS) has been long, arduous and, to date, unsuccessful. Researchers need to consider their expenditures on each new candidate biomarker. In a previous study of antibody-dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity (ADCC) by natural killer lymphocytes, we found lower ADCC for ME/CFS patients vs. unrelated donors but ruled against low ADCC as a biomarker because of similar ADCC for patients vs. their family members without ME/CFS.

Objective: We applied inclusion of family members without ME/CFS, from families with multiple CFS patients, as a second non-ME/CFS control group in order to re-examine inflammation in ME/CFS.

Method: Total and CD16A-positive 'non-classical' anti-inflammatory monocytes were monitored.

Results: Non-classical monocytes were elevated for patients vs. unrelated healthy donors but these differences were insignificant between patients vs. unaffected family members.

Conclusions: Inclusion of family members ruled against biomarker considerations for the monocytes characterized. These pilot findings for the non-classical monocytes are novel in the field of ME/CFS. We recommend that occupational therapists advocate and explain to family members without ME/CFS the need for the family members' participation as a second set of controls in pilot studies to rapidly eliminate false biomarkers, optimize patient participation, and save researchers' labor.

Keywords: ADCC; Chronic Fatigue Syndrome; Myalgic Encephalomyelitis; antibody-dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity; biomarker; non-classical monocytes.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Biomarkers / analysis*
  • Family / psychology*
  • Fatigue Syndrome, Chronic / diagnosis*
  • Fatigue Syndrome, Chronic / genetics
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidental Findings
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pilot Projects
  • Professional-Family Relations*
  • Utah


  • Biomarkers