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Pacific Fatigue Lab Plays an Integral Role in Chronic Fatigue Meeting in Washington D.C.

Nov 9, 2009

Researchers recently discovered a correlation between a retrovirus, XMRV, and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). This breakthrough has created a buzz in the medical community and fueled a firestorm in Washington D.C., where clinicians and patient advocacy groups—as well as members of the Pacific Fatigue Laboratory—have blasted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for years of inertia regarding chronic fatigue syndrome policy.

The Pacific Fatigue Lab, housed in Sport Sciences, has been at the forefront of chronic fatigue syndrome issues and research. The lab was started by Staci Stevens, a graduate of Pacific's Sport Sciences program who has suffered from chronic fatigue syndrome and understands its debilitating effects. Despite growing scientific evidence, there has been a strong belief by many physicians, insurers and others that CFS is psychological. The Pacific Fatigue Lab has developed unique testing protocols that help more accurately assess the physiological status of patients who may be afflicted with fatigue-related disorders.

Members of the Pacific Fatigue Lab traveled to Washington D.C. to participate in the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Advisory Committee meeting that took place October 29 - 30. The CFS Advisory Committee's role is to provide advice and recommendations to the Department of Health and Human Services on issues relating to chronic fatigue syndrome. Dr. Chris Snell, chair of Sport Sciences, is a member of the committee, and Staci Stevens has previously been a member. Accompanying them at the meeting were Michelle Mielke, Assistant Professor, Sport Sciences Department; Laura Black, M.D., the Medical Director for the Pacific Fatigue Lab; and graduate student Harnoor Signh, who is a research assistant in the lab.

In her testimony at the meeting, Stevens stated that CFS is a physical disease that can be identified, characterized and measured. By contrast, the CDC currently recommends the use of self-report questionnaires to diagnose and quantify the severity of the illness. "That questionnaires have become the standard of diagnosis for CFS at the CDC shows how little progress they have made in the last 25 years in characterizing this disabling syndrome," said Stevens.

Harnoor Singh, who also works at a local emergency department, testified about the poor treatment of CFS patients in the emergency room, and expressed concern about the lack of education about CFS in medical schools. Harnoor plans to go to medical school and he stated, "Many primary care physicians aren't trained to consider CFS as a possible diagnosis, let alone serve as advocates for patients having trouble with ill-informed insurance companies."

Chris Snell raised questions about the safety of the nation's blood supply in light of the discovery of the XMRV retrovirus, and voted in favor of change at the CDC, emphasizing that "we do not want a repeat of the mistakes made in HIV."

For more information, please visit the Pacific Fatigue Laboratory website.

Pacific faculty at CDC
From left: Laura Black, MD, Pacific Fatigue Lab’s Medical Director; Michelle Mielke, Assistant Professor in the Sport Sciences Department; and Staci Stevens, Founder and Executive Director of the Pacific Fatigue Lab.

CFS Advisory Committee members at the Washington D.C. meeting.
CFS Advisory Committee members at the Washington D.C. meeting.