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A Blood Test for Fibromyalgia?

Discovery May Lead to Better Differential Diagnosis and Targeted Treatment

Researchers at the Ohio State University report that they have identified biomarkers of fibromyalgia that can be detected in blood samples, and that can be differentiated from a variety of other related diseases. The discovery may lead to significant advances in clinicians’ ability to differentially diagnose the condition, that is frequently misdiagnosed, underdiagnosed, and undertreated today, according to research cited by the study authors. Identification of a “metabolic fingerprint” for fibromyalgia may also inform the development of more targeted treatments. Lead researcher Kevin Hackshaw, MD, associate professor at Ohio State College of Medicine and a rheumatologist at the Wexner Medical Center, reported, “We found clear, reproducible metabolic patterns in the blood of dozens of patients with fibromyalgia. This brings us much closer to a blood test than we have ever been.” The research findings were published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

Fibromyalgia diagnosis currently relies on patient-reported input about a variety of symptoms and lacks a clear-cut definitive tool for clinical use. Many undiagnosed patients with fibromyalgia are prescribed opioids for their pain, Dr. Hackshaw observed, that are not beneficial in treating the condition. “Fibromyalgia often gets worse, and certainly doesn’t get better, with opioids,” he remarked. The study enrolled 50 patients with a diagnosis of fibromyalgia, 29 with rheumatoid arthritis, 19 with osteoarthritis, and 23 with lupus. Blood samples from each participant were analyzed using vibrational spectroscopy, which measures the energy level of molecules in the blood. After developing baseline patterns for patients with known diagnoses, the team established that they could reliably categorize each participant into the correct disease using only the molecular signature in their blood sample. Coauthor Luis Rodriguez-Saona, PhD, professor at the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences at Ohio State, and an expert in the application of vibrational spectroscopic techniques, commented, “These initial results are remarkable. If we can help speed diagnosis for these patients, their treatment will be better and they’ll likely have better outlooks.”

Read about the research from Ohio State.

The journal abstract may be read here.