I met Armin Alaedini in 2008 at a meeting in San Francisco that was about solutions for Lyme and other tick-borne diseases through cutting edge science. I was fascinated by his presentation on immunological findings in post-treatment Lyme disease and I approached him about collaborating on ME/CFS. At this time, I had just started as the scientific director at the CFIDS Association, now Solve, and had the idea to set up a biobank of ME/CFS samples as a resource to drive and advance cutting edge ME/CFS science. One year later, the biobank was jumpstarted because Science magazine published the paper describing an infectious retrovirus in the blood of ME/CFS patients. Within days of that paper being published, blood banks and pharmaceutical companies were in search of blood samples from ME/CFS patients in order to validate the findings, develop tests and treatments. This motivated a collaboration between Solve and 5 ME/CFS clinical centers to collect blood samples from their well-characterized patient populations for biobanking and distribution to blood banks and pharma. That is how the SolveCFS BioBank was jumpstarted. Since that time, those precious blood samples have been used in multiple research studies.
In one of our first collaborations, Dr. Alaedini and his team at Columbia examined ME/CFS blood samples for signs of inflammation. Not finding evidence of inflammatory markers in ME/CFS, he suspected a defect in specific acute-phase immune responses in ME/CFS or lack of the instigating microbes at the time of the blood draw. To test this, he tapped into two different studies that had blood samples. The first were those 2009 blood samples from the SolveCFS BioBank that included 131 ME/CFS samples and 86 healthy control samples. The second were blood samples from a study led by Sanjay Shukla and Dane Cook. This super cool study used an exercise challenge to show that there was an increase in bacterial translocation into the blood and slower clearance from the blood following exercise in ME/CFS patients.
The result of this impressive collaborative research study is a compelling explanation for what could be causing PEM.
Cort Johnson wrote a fantastic blog about this research – I encourage everyone to read it! If you are keen to dig into the details of the paper, it is published in the open access journal Brain Behavior and Immunity Health and you can download and read it here.
This research was supported with grants to Armin Alaedini and Sanjay Shukla by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, through Grant Number R21AI121996 (A.A.), and the Solve ME/CFS Initiative (A.A. and S.K.S.).