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Academics work with locals to combat Chronic Fatigue

Bond University and the community will team up for a revolutionary research project aiming to unearth a faster diagnosis method for the debilitating Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS).

The University has put out the call for 150 locals aged 20 to 65-years-old to take part in the world-first study, made possible through a $533,000 grant from the Queensland Government’s Smart State program – the first Smart State Grant received by Bond - as well as a $90,000 National Grant from the Mason Foundation to further investigate immunological dysfunction in CFS patients.

Diagnosing CFS is a lengthy process costing the community hundreds of millions of dollars a year in consultations, treatments and lost work hours. Diagnosis is often drawn-out and frustrating for sufferers because of the lack of suitable pathology tests.

Bond University’s research team, headed by Associate Professor of Biochemistry and Cell Biology Dr Sonya Marshall-Gradisnik, aims to develop a commercially viable test kits to diagnose CFS faster and more accurately as well as establishing guidelines for diagnosis. Research will be undertaken at the Population, Health and Neuroimmunology Unit (PHANU).

“We hope to unearth a quicker method of detection which will free up the health system and limit the cost to the community,’’ said Dr Marshall-Gradisnik.

“We came up with potentially some markers that diagnose CFS. Currently, diagnosis is based on the process of elimination, whereby patients undergo numerous tests that look at a multitude of possibilities – it can take months and is very tough on the patient.’’

Specifically, the University project requires 50 people diagnosed with CFS, 50 people who constantly feel exhausted but have not been diagnosed with CFS, as well as 50 healthy people. The program will examine immunological changes between the three groups and identify trends.

In 2002, the Royal Australian College of Physicians reported one in four people who visited their general practitioner complaining of fatigue were diagnosed with CFS. In the same year, the RACP predicted diagnosis, detection and ancillary services cost the Australian community in excess of $525 million.

Dr Marshall-Gradisnik will spend three years undertaking the research project. She will be assisted by Bond University Professor of General Practice Mieke Van Driel, postgraduate student Ekua Brenu, Dr Donald Staines from the Gold Coast Population Health Unit, and the Queensland Statewide Scientific and Forensic Services Unit.

Dr Marshall-Gradisnik said large research institutions, excited at the possible innovation to CFS diagnosis, had already contacted her and offered to collaborate on the project.

Participants in the project must be available for 30 minute check-ups every six months for two years, including a blood test. In return, volunteers will receive a thorough assessment of their health and knowledge they are participating in potentially world-wide medical advancement.

Volunteers will undergo an initial assessment before being accepted into the project.

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