03.12.16 - $4m grant to aid Chronic Fatigue Syndrome diagnosis


Major improvements in the diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome are expected following the awarding of $4 million in funding to one of Australia’s foremost authorities on the condition.

Professors Sonya Marshall-Gradisnik and Don Staines and Dr Samantha Johnston from the National Centre For Neuroimmunology and Emerging Diseases (NCNED) at Menzies Health Institute Queensland, Griffith University were awarded the funding from the Stafford Fox Medical Research Foundation as part of a bid to accelerate the diagnosis of CFS and the discovery of appropriate treatments.

CFS, also known as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME), is a highly debilitating disorder characterised by profound fatigue, muscle and joint pain, cerebral symptoms of impaired memory and concentration, impaired cardiovascular function, gut disorder and sensory dysfunction such as noise intolerance and balance disturbance.

Many cases can continue for months or years. It is believed around 200,000 Australians are affected. The prevalence rate of CFS/ME worldwide is estimated around 1.2 per cent.

“This grant is the largest amount ever awarded for CFS research,” says Professor Staines. The funding from the Stafford Fox Medical Research Foundation will allow Griffith to develop and deliver the first-of-its-kind diagnostic blood test which uses novel technologies to identify genetic markers for CFS.

“Importantly we are now able to develop a laboratory test which confirms the diagnosis in patients with a clinically compatible illness.

“The development of this test will not only provide legitimacy to patients’ illness, but will also mean that health professionals such as GPs and specialists can provide a faster diagnosis for each patient. This will reduce the burden on our healthcare system which spends around $500 million on inappropriate healthcare for CFS each year.


“The diagnostic test will likely be available to the medical community within five years as we continue to study larger groups of CFS patients. Importantly this funding will also enable researchers at NCNED to investigate possible pharmacological treatments,” says Professor Marshall-Gradisnik.

“The Stafford Fox Medical Research Foundation grant will also enable NCNED researchers to further explore the proven receptor dysfunction in this condition using world-first technology.

“The funding will further enhance our scientific research which demonstrates functional changes in certain cell receptors, which are associated with the pathology of CFS.”

The funding award is the second round of funding from the Stafford Fox Medical Research Foundation which previously provided $2.5 million to NCNED to investigate CFS and develop the diagnostic test.

Senior Deputy Vice Chancellor and Pro Vice Chancellor of Research, Professor Ned Pankhurst says this outstanding achievement by NCNED researchers at Griffith is a landmark contribution to CFS research worldwide.

“The concentration of research talent at NCNED has resulted in world-first scientific discoveries that underpin the pathology of this illness, enabling further advancements in delivering a diagnostic test and possible treatments in the near future.”

The NCNED team is presenting research at this week’s Gold Coast Health and Medical Research Conference 2016 (1-2 December 2016). The Conference has the theme of Translating research for the prevention of chronic disease. The 2-day conference is being held at the QT Hotel, Surfers Paradise. 







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