Diagnosis from a thumb?

We’ve said for many years that the discovery of a clinical ‘thumbprint’ for the diagnosis of ME/CFS (or one of its components) would transform the lives of patients and carers. Well, researchers at Osaka University, Japan, have published data suggesting that real thumbs might do the job. They used visible and near-infrared (Vis-NIR) spectroscopy – which derives information from light shone into the skin – to look into the thumbs of 57 ME/CFS patients and 74 healthy volunteers. Using blinded samples (without knowing which samples were from patients and which from controls), they found that the technique could correctly predict which people were healthy volunteers (in 83.3% of cases) and which were ME/CFS patients (70%).

So, is Vis-NIR spectroscopy a shoo-in as an accurate diagnostic tool? Possibly – but this will need to be confirmed by other research groups across the world, and a sensitivity of 70% (which implies that 3 of 10 patients are incorrectly diagnosed) is not particularly impressive as a stand-alone test.

Reference: Visible and near-infrared spectra collected from the thumbs of patients with chronic fatigue syndrome for diagnosis. Sakudo A, et al. Clin Chim Acta 2012 Oct 9; 413(19-20): 1629-32.

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