The blood test identifies biomarkers of fibromyalgia and differentiates the disease from other related diseases. Biomarkers act as a metabolic fingerprint, according to the researchers.
Fibromyalgia is a condition that causes widespread pain. It affects approximately 4 million adults in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The disease is usually diagnosed using a patient’s history, physical examination, X-rays and blood work. However, the researchers say that there is no clear-cut, easy-to-use tool that can provide a quick diagnosis.
“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,” Kevin Hackshaw, an associate professor in Ohio State’s College of Medicine and a rheumatologist, said in a press release.
The disease can be treated with medications, exercise and patient education classes, but there is no cure.
“Most physicians nowadays don’t question whether fibromyalgia is real, but there are still skeptics out there,” Hackshaw said.
Many people who go undiagnosed with fibromyalgia are prescribed opioids. The painkillers have been shown to not reduce pain from the disease, according to the researchers.
“When you look at chronic pain clinics, about 40% of patients on opioids meet the diagnostic criteria for fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia often gets worse, and clearly doesn’t get better, with opioids,” said Hackshaw.
The researchers tested the blood test in 50 people who have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, 29 with rheumatoid arthritis, 19 with osteoarthritis and 23 with lupus. They examined blood samples from each person using vibrational spectroscopy. Vibrational spectroscopy measures the energy level of molecules in the blood sample. The researchers found clear patterns that could differentiate between blood samples from fibromyalgia patients and other blood samples.
Hackshaw and Rodriguez-Saona also found that the metabolic fingerprinting technique could potentially indicate the severity of the disease.
“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. There’s nothing worse than being in a gray area where you don’t know what disease you have,” Luis Rodriguez-Saona, a co-author on the study and an expert in the advanced testing method, said.
The researchers plan to perform a larger-scale clinical trial to reproduce the study results. In the next study, the researchers want to examine 150 to 200 subjects per each disease group they previously tested. They hope to have the test ready for widespread use in the next five years.
The research was published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry and was supported by the Columbus Medical Research Foundation.