Traditionally, FM has been a diagnosis of exclusion, meaning that conditions with similar symptoms are first ruled out before a diagnosis of FM is made. This method results not only in questionable reliability, but also impacts upon the length of time for a diagnosis and a delayed diagnosis can of course affect the efficacy of treatment.
Current blood tests
In early 2018, US company, iQuity, launched its test, IsolateFibromyalgia. Claiming a 90% success rate the test uses a Ribonucleic Acid (RNA) analysis of blood samples to diagnose (or otherwise) FM within 7 days.
However, IsolateFibromyalgia was not the first blood test for FM to reach the market. In 2012, another US company, EpicGenetics launched its FM/a test. This test measures the concentration of immune system cytokines within the blood. The theory is that lower levels of cytokines may be an indicator of FM. However, the FM/a test has been labelled as unreliable by some in the scientific community who say that similar levels of cytokines may also be indicative of conditions other than FM.
University of Ohio research
Now, in a paper published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, researchers from the University of Ohio say they have developed a blood test which uses “a rapid biomarker-based method for diagnosing FM by using vibrational spectroscopy to differentiate patients with FM from those with [other conditions]”.
Vibrational spectroscopy is a technique that is used widely in industry which uses infrared light to identify molecules by the nature of their motion.
The study included 50 people already diagnosed with fibromyalgia, 29 with rheumatoid arthritis, 23 with lupus and 19 with osteoarthritis.
Using vibrational spectroscopy, the researchers found clear, reproducible metabolic patterns in the blood samples of patients already diagnosed with fibromyalgia which were distinct from those suffering other conditions. Accordingly, they concluded that “vibrational spectroscopy may provide a reliable diagnostic test for differentiating FM from other disorders”.
In addition, it is hoped that going forward this study could lead eventually to the identification of a particular molecule or combination of molecules linked to the development of FM.