Thursday, December 29, 2011

Myalgic Encephalomyelitis - an impact video

It is important to be clear about this disease Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, ME. Clarity is something that has been sadly lacking over the years. This short video, under five minutes, brings certain things about ME into sharp focus. It is an "impact video". The first half has Dr. David Bell articulating, in his excellent manner, some of the main symptoms of this illness. The second half focuses on a severely ill ME patient, a young man of 19 years of age.

It is my belief that we, collectively, have to look more closely at the most severely ill ME patients. It is my belief that they harbor, in their severity, the keys to this illness. Most doctors do not see the most severely ill. Kenny De Meirleir, in his trips into Norwegian homes, treats the very ill. Paul Cheney and David Bell also have occasionally seen the severely ill. Perhaps others have - and hats off to them. But by and large, this patient population is isolated from everyone. The severely ill ME patients cannot get to a doctor's office. They languish in darkened rooms, cut off from reality, isolated and often abandoned, without medical care. It seems that no one cares a whit about them. It is these patients on whom we have to focus our attention, both for their sake and for ours. More effort has to be made to "get close to them", although this, in itself, is difficult, under even the best of circumstances.

I know of a number of these patients. I am interested in identifying more of them. Mostly they have the willingness to participate, through testing, in their own betterment - provided that the severity of their situation is taken into consideration. Many already have had testing for immune function, NK cell activity, cytokine disregulation, gut dysbiosis, brain scans and so forth. Consistent testing needs to be applied to these patients using existing parameters - if only to set the stage for future possibilities that will soon arise.

Peter Cairns, whose own sister is ill, has made this film. Peter has both the skill and the ability, born of experience and empathy, to approach these patients, to get close to them without disturbing them too much - for these patients live in a very fragile and vulnerable world.

Most people do not want to take a look in this direction. Most people turn away, including doctors. It is time to toughen up - and to consider these patients, and what they are going through, especially since they might hold the key. Testing of the half-sick (no disrespect here) has not brought clarity. We need to brace up, take a good look and then move in close. While it is difficult it is the only decent and humane thing to do.

This video interview of Dr. David Bell was made in August 2010 at the opening of the Whittemore Peterson Institute building on the Reno, NV campus. The video was a private project.

It occurs to me to add this fine, very moving testimony of Laurel from 2009.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

CFSAC Testimony of Anonymous #3

The testimonies of the recent CFSAC meeting are now online. They can be found
here. Why these meeting cannot be streamed live and put immediately on the internet, I do not know. Much of a person's testimony is attached to his or her physical self, gestures and voice. To get the true feeling one needs to see the person presenting the testimony (when possible). It is so easy, it is done everywhere now. It is part of modern life.

The fact that these meetings were not streamed and made available immediately speaks to an "intention" - and that intention is "not good". The decision goes beyond stupidity and it is very worrisome - very worrisome. Things have meaning, actions have meaning.

The testimonies are worth reading in their entirety as they give a tremendous collective overview of ME/CFS.

If I were to pick one testimony that everyone interested in learning about ME should read, it is the testimony of Anonymous #3 - a person of a great courage. What this woman writes is like the very most precious gold. To mine more, read the CFSAC Spring testimony of Anonymous #3 here.

To the Members of the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Advisory Committee:

Thank you for your service and for the recommendations you made at your meeting last May. In particular, I thank you for recommending that “chronic fatigue syndrome” be moved out of the wastebasket R codes of the United States’ next version of the International Classification of Diseases, the ICD- 10-CM.

In my testimony in May, I described my daily life as a severely ill ME patient. I got sick at age 20 and have been ill for more than 17 years; seven of them spent essentially bedbound. I’m sorry to report that I have lost more function since your May meeting. Now I often can’t lift a pillow from the floor to my bed, and I can no longer swing my laptop computer from my bedside table onto my bed. In order for me to lie on my back and type this testimony, one of my parents, who are my caregivers, had to lift and position my computer for each writing session.

Today I would like to tell you about my last doctor’s appointment--the only time I have been able to go downstairs, outside, and leave my home in the past year.

For severe ME patients, leaving one’s home is an extraordinary undertaking that requires weeks of preparation and months of recovery. A week before the appointment, my parents began to fill our van, which they have converted into an improvised ambulance, with items I would need for the trip. The day before the appointment, I struggled through my monthly bath in the tub and my mother washed my hair. Ordinarily, I bathe in my bed and change my nightgown twice a week, with help. Due to my extreme orthostatic intolerance, I can’t sit long enough to shower, even with the aid of a shower chair.

The morning of my appointment I put on street clothes for the first time in several months. This activity so exhausted me that I could not carry a lightweight purse. I tackled the stairs, which are next to my bedroom, by slowly walking down three steps on rubbery legs, then sitting and resting for a couple minutes, then wobbling down three more with support from the railing. From the foot of the stairs I was pushed in my wheelchair out to our porch, where my father had backed up our van to a loading platform he had constructed.

The bright colors of the outdoors dazzled me. After six months mainly spent lying on this mattress in my small bedroom with one window, I wanted to linger on the porch and take in the vast, arching sky, the touch of breeze against my skin, the hum of insects in the sunlit fir trees. But I had to lower my body onto the bed in the back of our van and rest with eyes closed, wearing earplugs to block the noise of traffic, so that I would have enough energy to get through my appointment.

At the hospital, I had to transfer five times. I heaved my leaden body from the van to my wheelchair, then to a bench in the waiting room where I lay motionless as 85-year-olds hurried past me, then back to my wheelchair, and finally to the table in the exam room.

All of this extra movement and sitting upright took so much of my energy that by the time I reached the paper-covered table, I could barely lift my arms. I lay there blinking at the harsh fluorescent light and wincing at the hospital noises: distant machines beeping, conversations, doors opening. I was glad my doctor was 20 minutes late, because the effort of changing from my street clothes into the hospital gown weakened me so much that it was a while before I could speak again.

And what was the result of my enormous effort in getting myself to the doctor? Essentially, nothing. My doctor renewed my prescriptions for thyroid medication and B12 shots, ordered a few routine blood tests--which came back normal--and did a cursory physical exam. Then she told me to come back in a year and walked out. She had no treatment whatsoever to offer for the sickness that has destroyed my life. Can you imagine HIV or MS patients getting minimal medical care only once a year?

At least she didn’t mock me like past doctors who have said such things as, “It must be nice to get so much attention” and “You’ll have a lot more opportunities in your life if you leave your home.” And in fairness, my doctor has been very good about completing paperwork related to my illness.

Back at home, my parents called a young woman from our local emergency squad and asked her to bring a special carry chair with handles so I could be carried up our stairs. While we waited for her, I lay on the futon in my mother’s office downstairs, a room I had not even seen for more than a year.

Many of my old college textbooks were on her shelves, and I stared at their spines, remembering my active life before I got sick. I took a full course- load, worked part-time, jogged daily, volunteered, and happily partied with my friends.

Now I can no longer read books. Now I spend up to ten hours per day resting with eyes closed, about six hours sleeping, and only short periods here and there listening to audiobooks or checking my email.

It took three people to carry me up the stairs in the chair, though my weight is normal. A few times, as they strained and sweated, I thought we would all go tumbling down the stairs. I clung to the banister, remembering how I used to run up and down those stairs all day as a teenager. Even when my ME was more moderate, I could walk up and down them whenever I wanted to.

Finally, I was back in my room, so depleted I could barely turn my head. And here I have remained for the past six months. A few times a day I walk to the bathroom, but mainly I just lie here, listening to the whoosh of my air cleaner. On my computer I see photos of my old friends, who have gone on to careers, marriage, children and beautiful homes. Outside my window, another year goes by.

Members of CFSAC, my doctor can do nothing for me, but you can. You can influence the Secretary of Health and Human Services, and in turn, the government and public at large. I ask you to please pass strong recommendations on the following issues:

1. Promote the study and awareness of severely ill ME patients--those who score below 10 on the Bell Disability Scale.

A. Count them. No one knows how many American ME patients function at my level or below because no one--including the CDC and the CFIDS Association of America--has ever studied us. The CAA, which promotes psychotherapy and exercise as treatments, has chastised severely ill patients for supposed “kinesiophobia” (fear of movement) and advocates mainly for people with mild fatigue or “unwellness.”

B. Study them. Encourage several research studies composed entirely of severe patients, those who function below 10 on the Bell Disability Scale or who require a nursing home level of care, like me. I’m not a scientist, but it’s logical that the underlying pathology(-ies) of ME should be more pronounced in severe patients and therefore easier to detect

in their bodies. Testing severe patients will have “trickle up” benefits for mild and moderate patients.

C. Include them. Severe patients should comprise half the cohort of all research studies to avoid skewing results toward mild patients. In order to include the severely ill, researchers will have to make accommodations such as sending phlebotomists into patients’ homes. I was able to participate in a Whittemore Peterson Institute study, in which I tested positive for HGRVs, because the WPI--under the leadership of Dr. Judy Mikovits--hired a phlebotomist to come into my bedroom and draw my blood. We may not be able to undergo invasive procedures such as spinal taps in our homes, but there’s no reason why we can’t provide blood, stool, saliva and urine samples to researchers. Stop excluding from your studies the very people whose bodies are most likely to yield answers for all ME patients!

D. Publicize them. Making severe patients the public face of ME is an efficient way to get medical professionals, lay people, and government agencies to take this disease seriously. Rather than being seen as an asterisk, afterthought, or anomaly, severe patients should be the focus of newspaper articles, advocacy materials, and the CDC website. As long as high-energy patients--those who can care for themselves and their families and even hold jobs--are seen as typical, the government will continue to starve ME research of funds. This is a disabling disease, and the severely afflicted are the most capable of showing that!

E. Make teachers of them. Medical school students should be required to make house calls to severe ME patients. Most doctors and researchers have no idea how disabling ME can be because virtually all the patients they see have mild/moderate ME. Why? Because severe patients have extreme difficulty traveling to doctors, or can’t travel at all. Even many ME experts have never met a severe patient in person. After seeing us up close, perhaps future doctors won’t dismiss us with “I’m tired too.”

F. Form a CFSAC task force devoted to severe patients. The Secretary of Health and Human Services has repeatedly ignored your resolutions, but there’s no reason why the CFSAC itself can’t create a committee to actualize the above recommendations for these most overlooked and underserved of patients.

2. Ask for a vast increase in funding. As I wrote in May, if our government believes in equal rights for equal disabilities, it must increase funding for ME research by twenty-fold. Even a private endeavor, the poorly named Chronic Fatigue Initiative, is spending $10 million on research--twice what our government outlays for ME or CFS each year. Ask Secretary Sebelius how she can justify spending on Multiple Sclerosis 100 times, per capita, what she spends on ME or CFS, when I am more disabled than anyone I know with MS. Why has our government left us to decompose in our beds?

3. Adopt and promote the new International Consensus Criteria (ICC) for ME, which were published recently in the Journal of Internal Medicine by a panel of 26 respected clinicians and scientists from 13 countries. Researchers must closely adhere to these strict guidelines to create homogeneous cohorts. Note that to receive an ME diagnosis defined by the ICC, a person must function below 50% of normal activity. While this requirement may be too restrictive for diagnosis, it should be observed for research. Doing so will keep the focus on more disabled patients and facilitate the search for biomarkers and treatments.

4. The term “chronic fatigue syndrome” should be phased out. In particular, research using the Empirical Definition--which was co-authored by Bill Reeves, Beth Unger and Suzanne Vernon--should not receive government funding. Research based on this definition is virtually meaningless because it does not correspond to any disease entity but to a hodgepodge of psychiatric conditions, simple tiredness and unwellness. Any research on “chronic fatigue syndrome” must be based on the Canadian Consensus Criteria, which, like the ICC, defines a distinct neuro-immune disease and requires patients to function below 50% of normal activity.

Patients who don’t fulfill the ICC or CCC should not be admitted to studies of either ME or CFS because they confound research results.

Thank you for reading my testimony, which took me five weeks to write because I can concentrate for only short periods.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Mt. Sinai ME/CFS conference - Dr. Enlander lecture

Dr. Derek Enlander, who practices medicine in NYC, was instrumental in arranging a one-day ME/CFS conference at Mt. Sinai Hospital on Sunday, November 20, 2011. Dr. Enlander is well known in the ME/CFS community for his devoted work with patients with this illness. Dr. Enlander has provided support and care for thousands of patients in NYC and indeed worldwide. He travels regularly to Ireland and England and attends most ME/CFS conferences, playing a very important role down in the "trenches".

With a recent generous gift to Mt. Sinai Hospital by one of Dr. Enlander's patients, Dwight Merriman, Dr. Enlander wasted no time in getting this research and treatment center at Mt. Sinai underway. In the process he has enlisted three top researchers, two of them previously unknown to ME/CFS research. These researchers are Dr. Eric Schadt, Dr. Miriam Merad, and Dr. Ila Singh. On the clinical side, two well-known ME/CFS researcher/clinicians will be collaborating with Dr. Enlander at Mt. Sinai - Dr Kenny De Meirleir and Dr. David Bell. They will be undertaking various treatment paths, some of which are outlined in Dr. Enlander's lecture. See also Dr. Kenny De Meirleir's lecture on the latest with GcMAF.

Dr. Enlander, ever the gentleman, gave the last lecture of the day on that Sunday. In many ways his lecture functioned as a summation of the day's presentations and pulled various threads together.

Collectively these six lectures at this conference gave those in attendance great hope for the future of ME/CFS research at Mt. Sinai Hospital. The Mt. Sinai ME/CFS Center gives every indication of wanting to work collaboratively to get at this disease. This entire enterprise is exciting news indeed and we have Dr. Derek Enlander and his fine colleagues to thank for it. Let us hope that this small scale, hard-hitting conference idea becomes a regular practice.

The audio and videos of these lectures were done by Peter Cairns and Nicholas Cairns.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Mt. Sinai conference - Rich van Konynenburg

The upcoming conference at Mt. Sinai (on Sunday November 20, 2011) is a step in the right direction. This conference, the first of the new Mt. Sinai ME/CFS treatment and research center, embraces the serious exchange of treatment and research ideas in ME/CFS. There are some new names here, and we look forward to hearing from them. There are also some more familiar figures. The interaction should be illuminating.

The conference will start at 11 and will feature five half-hour presentations by Dr. Derek Enlander, Dr. Kenny De Meirleir, Dr. Eric Schadt, Rich van Konenynburg and Dr. Merriam Merad. After a lunch break there will be a panel discussion with the participants. (Judy Mikovits was scheduled to join the panel discussion, but will be "unable to make it" as she was arrested on Friday, November 18th in her hometown in CA on a fugitive from justice charge.)

I was pleased to see the name of Rich van Konynenburg among the speakers. Rich is an "independent operator" in the ME/CFS world - and one of the best. Over the years, he has developed a very convincing biochemical explanation for the part that methylation blockage and glutathione depletion play in ME/CFS. Rich has existed on the periphery for too long. He needs to be brought into the discussion. Rich is a welcome addition to this list of speakers, and perhaps this exposure will get some traction for his ideas.

I have followed closely the work of Rich for a good number of years now. Rich has presented poster papers at each of the major ME/CFS conferences (and at various other conferences). Once in a blue moon, he is actually invited to speak, and to present his thesis on the connection of the methylation blockage and glutathione depletion in ME/CFS. His ideas are firmly based in biochemistry and very well might play an important part in understanding and penetrating this illness. Certainly Dr. Enlander believes in the reality of methylation blockage, and his formula for treatment involves elements either borrowed from Rich's theory or coincident with it. Other clinicians also are paying more attention.

Rich's presence at the recent IACFS/ME conference was very noticeable, as he seems willing and able to talk individually with people without prejudice. He is on his feet all day of the poster conferences, presenting in a nutshell his complex set of ideas. Why he has never been given a time slot to directly address a conference session I will never know. His ideas need further exposure.

Here is a article by Rich van Konynenburg on Phoenix Rising. A revision of the original simplified protocol and a discussion can be found here. Discussions of the methylation protocol can also be found on various ME/CFS forums.

The first time I observed Rich van Konynenburg in action was at the 2007 IACFS/ME in Ft. Lauderdale. At that point, attendees to the conference could come to an open microphone and ask questions directly to the panels. In general the panel members "froze up" with the clarity and persistence of Rich's (and others) questioning. It was obvious that the "ability" of the panel members to engage unfamiliar territory was limited. Rather than trying to come to terms with what Rich was suggesting, they changed the format at the next conference to written questions - and in this way the organizers could control (and eliminate) the questions that were more penetrating or "difficult". This "technique" is used more and more today by important people who are averse to things "entering in". My response has always been, "Let's hear more from this fellow".

Recently, Rich gave a three-hour long lecture at a conference in Sweden. It is available online in three sections and they can be accessed in the following videos. I recommend viewing it in parts, as it is well worth watching.

Treatment for this complex, yet measurable, dysfunction is relatively simple, and can be found in various places on the internet. Rich himself engages on various forums, discussing with patients and advocates the specifics of his ideas, disassociating himself from giving medical advice.

It becomes obvious that his interest in ME/CFS is a labor of love. Certainly he cannot be accused of making money off of his idea, as he is always "on his own dime". Instead we find that his motivation to "get involved" is similar to many others in this field. He has a friend who has the illness.

Rich also is free of the usual entanglements - as he is neither an academic researcher nor an ME/CFS clinician. Instead his background is in electrical engineering. In his retirement, he has turned his fine mind onto the problem of solving or getting to the source of ME/CFS. Actually, like other important contributors to the mechanisms of ME/CFS (Dr. John Chia comes to mind here with his revisiting of older UK research of enteroviral involvement in ME/CFS), these ideas on glutathione depletion are not new, but borrowed from practitioners in autism. Rich had the insight to see the connection. We will all benefit from his insights.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Voices from the Shadows

“Voices from the Shadows” is a film about severe Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME). Natalie Boulton and her filmmaker son Josh Biggs made this film, which focuses on patients in the UK. This is an excellent, excellent film.

The name of Natalie Boulton might be familiar to some of you. Natalie made the book “Lost Voices”, also about severe ME, for InvestinME, the UK organization that sponsors the very best ME conference, annually in London. Richard and Pia Simpson, the guiding lights of InvestinME, do a great deal to further serious clinical and research work in the ME field.

“Voices from the Shadows” is an independently made video development of the book and focus on the consequences of psychiatric and psychosocial misunderstanding about the illness. Because of its sound, editing, pacing and interviews, it carries much more of a wallop.

“Voices from the Shadows” will be premiered at the Mill Valley Film Festival on Saturday, October 8th 2011 where it will followed by a panel discussion featuring Dr. Jose Montoya, the ME clinical researcher from Stanford University, and David Tuller, a medical journalist from the NY Times. Further screenings are being arranged. A trailer of the film can be found on the webpage of the film and is presented here.

I recently watched a finished version of “Voices from the Shadows” to preview it. I had seen several preliminary versions, and was struck by how the balance and pacing of the film was improved each time that I saw a new version.

The film follows various bedbound patients - from early home movies of happy children through the random strike of an “insult” (virus) to later illness severity. Caregivers and patients are interviewed. All interviews are set up and edited for maximum clarity and impact. The timing and fusing of many of the images is first rate. Care was taken in building and constructing every frame. The music is also carefully chosen and interwoven with the images for maximum effect. The music is subtle and persuasive, used with discretion and for visual and emotional emphasis. Particularly striking is the cello music, an instrument whose sound is so compatible with the “aching distress” of the subject. The bottom line is that every single square inch of this film is “considered” - to heighten the difficulties of ME and the obstacles that these patients face. Josh and Natalie have a close and abiding “attachment to the subject” – and it shows.

The film features three true heroes in the public ME world, Dr. Leonard Jason from DePaul University, Dr. Nigel Speight, Consultant pediatrician of Durham University Hospital, and Dr. Malcolm Hooper, the Dean of ME physicians in the UK. Each speaks with a clarity and conviction about the seriousness of ME - and of the longstanding disregard and mistreatment of ME patients. These three people are filmed and interviewed in such a way that their message is delivered with great emotional intensity and clarity.

It is my belief that this film will have a major impact on educating a wider audience about the true nature of ME. Natalie and Josh have made the absolutely correct decision to focus on the very severely ill, and on their medical treatment (or non-treatment). “Voices from the Shadows” depicts “the very bottom” of the illness, what I like to refer to as “the core of the illness”. This was an important choice - as this “bottom” is where the severity of the illness can be most clearly seen –and tested. More clinicians, more researchers should seek access to these patients to find out what really is happening in this illness. Even though the patients are sequestered in rooms, sophisticated, experimental tests can be run on them - involving, blood, urine, saliva and stool samples. The only physician that I know of who engages "the most ill" is Dr. Kenny de Meirleir, who goes into the homes in Norway and other places - and tries to determine what is happening through testing. Perhaps other clinicians do this? I would like to know who they are, as they are important witnesses. Too often clinicians see patients who are “half sick”, patients that can actually get out of their houses into a doctor’s office - so that they do not get an entirely clear or full view. But what about those who cannot move -or cannot be moved? Who sees them?

Josh and Natalie have made a number of exquisite decisions regarding this movie. In the first place it is the right length, a few minutes over an hour long. Within this span of time the story builds through a set of pictures and interviews of patients and physicians. The three principal medical personal reappear throughout the film giving it a great continuity. The pacing and image cutting/building is first rate, riveting the viewer along the path to a catastrophic ending. This film is not for everyone. I do not recommend that patients watch this film. But for others, clinicians and doctors, it is just the ticket to sober them up a bit about this illness.

This film is not a “Professional” movie made by outsiders with a large budget and a large crew. This is a first rate documentary made on a low budget by two people who have access to the “core of the reactor”. There has never been a film like this, and there is apt not to be one again in the near future. This “core terrain” is a difficult place to access, as the illness itself being “stress-related” (“Picking up a glass of water is stress.”) disallows the spectator or helper getting close to the patient. Getting close requires great empathy with the patient’s particular situation, and one has to have great experience being around these ill patients. These two, Josh and Natalie, have a special key to get into the inner sanctum, and they do a marvelous job in a very trying situation.

One quibble that I have about the film is that it does not explain enough the condition of the patients that one sees in the images. For instance, several of these patients are wearing what appear to be headphones. In actuality, these are construction sound blockers. These patients have severe hyperacusis (noise sensitivity) along with photophobia (light sensitivity). Many wear masks twenty-four hours a day. Often they are afraid of sound, as it is incredibly painful to them. Certainly they wish they could listen to music, but it is impossible. Many patients live totally in isolation, in the dark, unable to see, hear or talk. Sometimes a patient has to have a sheet suspended above them, as the contact with the sheet is too painful.

Perhaps this film will do its part in hammering home the true nature of ME. Anyone who looks at this film is going to ask themselves a question. Is this the fatigue illness where patients lounge around or place their heads on the table in class, or drop dishes in the kitchen? Does this look like a “yawning” disease? Or does this depiction of ME indicate a virally (or retrovirally) induced sickness with serious autonomic and immune incapacities? ME is a serious neurological illness that include attacks on all senses – sight, sound, touch, smell, as well as the brain and every other organ in the body. Watch this film and see for yourself.

Too many doctors and too many researchers and too many friends and family do not want to go down the road to look at this illness. There are reasons why so many people turn away from the patients - and leave them abandoned and bereft. The illness is very Medieval and frightening. Most people, most doctors, most researchers, look away. This movie will help people take a good look. This movie will help wake people up.

And yet the film does focus on "those who do not back away" - the caregivers. These caregivers are trying valiantly to save their loved ones, but the stress is in their eyes, in their movements. It is a very difficult position to be in, to chose to move in close and support the very ill patient. Moments of interchange between the caregiver and patient are excruciatingly poignant and painful. This illness is terrible for the patients. It robs them of much of life's normal activities and interaction, and yet the caregiver, in his or her giving, suffers terribly also - and this film delivers that message. A properly balanced interaction between caregiver and patient - something that is extremely difficult to get right - is depicted with extraordinary sensitivity by these filmmakers.

“Voices from the Shadows” is being shown in a special sneak preview at the IACFS conference in Ottawa, It is scheduled for viewing between 5:30-7 on Thursday September 22nd. The end of the day is the wrong time to show this film. This should be shown at the beginning of each day to get the conference participant's minds focused on their task. This is a breakfast film. The film will disabuse the viewer of any false notions that they might have had about this illness, and replace it with known facts and reality. "Voices from the Shadows” is a labor of love. It strikes from the heart – to the heart. Everyone who has an interest in this illness should see this film – from beginning to end.

Sunday, July 24, 2011


For years I have read about thiamine, and thiamine deficiency, in ME. Thiamine deficiency is known to cause many symptoms that are similar to ME. There are a few stories of people improving with taking thiamine injections. Here is one story. There are others, enough to make me wonder more than once over the past few years of the need to check for thiamine deficiency.

In the search for information about hyperacusis I came across this fine article by Melody O'Beau, written, I presume, years ago. In it she relates her experience with a rare metabolic disorder that short-circuits thiamine being taken up and used by the body. It is not so much the amount of thiamine in the blood, but more the "functionality" of thiamine in the body. This functionality is low, presumably the result of a missing enzyme. Melody postulates, in her case, that this is a mitochondrial defect. Coincidentally, a few months ago, Dr. Joseph Brewer handed me a copy of this same article (of which I was aware) but this "reminder" stirred my interest enough to finally pursue the functional thiamine test (for my daughter) suggested in Melody's blog.

This test is call the transketolase test and can be done for $1oo at the King James Medical Laboratory in Westlake, OH (1-800- 437-1404). The lab needs two blood vials, one ambient, one frozen, both shipped overnight. They give two result - one, a baseline blood level of thiamine, and two, a level of the functionality of thiamine under TP provocation. Results over 17% indicate poor functionally of thiamine - and the need to raise thiamine levels, most likely through injections. Results of raising thiamine can be dramatic.

Dr. David Bell writes about this low thiamin functionality in his Lyndonville News.

"Full thiamine deficiency is rare because of generally good nutrition, but some persons have a defect in the enzyme system that uses thiamine and as a result have dysautonomic symptoms. This can be detected with an erythrocyte transketolase index, where thiamine pyrophosphate (TPP) stimulation test greater than 14% demonstrates thiamine deficiency. The illness, caused by an enzyme abnormality, can be effectively treated by giving very high doses of thiamine which bypass the defect."

People with this situation have a difficult time raising thiamine with oral supplements. In this case, they take thiamine injections on a daily or twice weekly schedule. The injections can range from .1 ml to 2ml depending on the patient's particular need, which is determined by trial and error.

Thiamine function deficiency has been postulated to cause fatigue, muscular and sensitivity issues. The following bit of information appears on various sites: "Vitamin B1 (thiamine) deficiency produces optic nerve dysfunction". A noted mitochondrial researcher wrote to me, "The functional thiamine deficiency is an important finding as vitamin B1 is needed to get magnesium into cells. In muscle ATP always works as a complex with magnesium so correcting intracellular magnesium and factors that affect it like thiamine status is important."

From another dysautonomia study can be found this: "In spite of its largely unknown action TTP deficiency may play an important part since it is synthesized in mitochondria, supporting the conclusion that thiamine is an important nutrient where there is mitochondrial disruption."

Thiamine deficiency falls into the realm of something that is clearly identifiable and "something that is treatable". These are categories that escape ME patients except in rare instances - like Hashimoto's thyroiditis.

The internet is quite an amazing place to gather information. In this case the "trip-switch" information was written up quite a number of years ago by a seriously involved Lyme patient. Years later others are able to benefit from her written testimony/experience. I have communicated my appreciation to Melody herself, and noted the usefulness of this article written long ago.

Friday, July 22, 2011


Recent events have gotten me to focus again on mitochondria and its relation to ME. None of the following is presented as medical advice or guidance. I am not a doctor and I do not want to be one. On the other hand, it is worth noting that those with ME are "on their own" when it
comes to medical diagnosis and treatment. The situation for ME sufferers is worse than the 19th century, when physicians at least would ply their trade.

Dr. Sarah Myhill's website, perhaps the most extensive ME website on the internet, has ample information on the critical role that mitochondria play in ME. It is a great starting point. Another informative article is by Dr. David Bell, and can be found in his Lyndonville News here. Dr Bell, an excellent clinician trying to find answers, has had a long-standing interest in the role of mitochondria in ME.

Various clinicians - Dr Joseph Brewer, Dr Sarah Myhill, Dr Paul Cheney - believe that mitochondrial irregularities play a part - perhaps a very large part - in ME/CFS. You can read an article by Dr. Myhill here. In this article Dr. Myhill outlines how mitochondrial failure plays such a very big role in ME. (Incidentally not everyone has caught on to this idea.)

Dr. Myhill collaborated with Dr. John McLaren Howard and Dr. Norman Booth in an important study published in January 2009. This paper, which can be viewed here, was presented by Dr. Booth at the IACFS conference in Reno, NV in 2009. A short article on these three researchers is available here.

Dr. John McLaren Howard is a real unsung hero in ME research. Dr. Howard co-founded Biolab in London (with Dr. Stephen Davies). Prior to retiring from Biolab a few years ago, Dr. Howard pioneered some very important testing in the area of mitochondria and ME. He has continued to do these tests at Acumen lab in Cornwall. His son Mark continues to work as Manager of Biolab.

Dr Myhill's website gives a good explanation of what Acumen is looking for in their testing.

The test itself is relatively easy to do. I believe my daughter was the first person from the US to do this test, back in 2007. In crude terms the test measures ATP function (the rate at which it is recycled into cells) and the efficiency with which ATP is made from ADP. Further testing looks at various blockages to the transport of ATP and ADP. Here is an example of an ATP results page:

The blood test requires one heparanised and one EDTA tube, shipped ambient via Fedex to Acumen lab in the UK. USA Fedex shipments have to be sent to Acumen labs, c/o Cameras Plus, 17A Gold Street, Tiverton, Devon UK EX16 6QB. The samples have to be shipped "international priority" which will get them to Dr. Howard in 48 hours. They need to be shipped in an insulated pack with the proper paperwork. Fedex will help with the international shipping label. They will not help with the packaging in any way. A triplicate copy of an international waybill needs to be filled out in a specific way, the process of which can also be learned through the Fedex site. If the blood is drawn into the correct tubes, if the shipment is packed according to international Fedex procedures, if the paperwork is filled out properly, the sample will breeze through customs to Acumen labs in a timely fashion. Some care has to be taken in these matters.

The test can be done through Dr. Myhill. She will write a particularized summary that is very useful. She has seen hundreds of these tests and works closely with Dr. Howard.

Rich van Konynenburg's thoughts (always welcome) on mitochondria and ME can be seen on the Phoenix Rising forum. This ME/CFS information site was founded by Cort Johnson. This website provides us all with much needed information and connections - and is an ongoing, necessary resource. Not a day goes by that I do not read it.

The big question is, once the specific mitochondria problems are identified, can these deficiencies be rectified? As with all matters with ME, the proof is in the pudding. It is trial and error - but at least the patient has a target, and a means of measurement and tracking. Many people have been helped by this test and its targeted treatment.

Is it possible that such sharp and diverse minds as Myhill, Cheney, Howard, Booth, Bell, and Brewer can be gathered around a subject - mitochondrial failure - and that there be nothing there? No, I do not think so.

The interesting thing about mitochondria dysfunction or illness in general is that it is viewed as a disease - as opposed to ME, which is viewed as nothing. At the moment there is broad attention being paid to mitochondrial diseases and mitochondrial dysfunction, and this reality opens up an entire area on to which ME might be able to piggyback. One of the greatest hopes for ME patients is that something will slop over from another research area - HIV, cancer, mitochondria, MS, stem cell - and inadvertantly land in the lap of ME.

Several national mitochondrial disease websites can be viewed here and here.

The proposed intervention, tailored by the physician to the particular needs of the patient, revolve around what is know as the "mitochondria cocktail". Dr. Myhill stumbled upon mitochondria support through the research of Dr. Stephen Sinatra, the American metabolic cardiologist. The mitochondrial cocktail consists of various supplements. These include NAD, Co-Q10, d-ribose, carnitine, Idebenone, b2 (riboflavin), b1 (thiamine), creatine, and magnesium and b12 injections. A good webpage that covers some of these supplements is this Medscape article. Each patient's cocktail is particularized - either by a physician or by trial and error. The experienced patient, whether with lyme or ME or both, will be able to tell what works for them, and what doesn't, thus devising their own balanced protocol.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Dr. Denise Faustman

I know nothing about science and its practitioners. Personal circumstances have led me to read and learn about type 1 diabetes research for almost 25 years now. The cure or solution to diabetes type 1 was always presented as being around the corner, five or ten years away. Diabetes, especially type 2, is a huge industry with great pressure against a "breakthrough". There have been several promising avenues towards a cure for type 1 that have been pursued over the years. One has been islet cell transplants - and a small company - LCT - in Australia leads the way in this field, struggling mightily for financial support. More recently promising trials have begun in the US using stem cells. There are many fine researchers working in the field. Of special note is Bernhard Hering here at the University of Minnesota.

One of the most astonishing researchers in the field is Dr. Denise Faustman. Dr. Faustman has developed her own ideas about how to deal with this nasty illness. She is a revolutionary thinker. For many years now, Dr. Faustman has met stiff resistance - in spite of being connected to a first class laboratory at Mass General. Most of her research financing has come from private sources - Lee Iacocca in particular. The main- stream diabetes research organizations have been strangely reluctant to get behind her. Others have spent some time trying to sidetrack or "borrow" her research ideas, at the same time discounting them. It is an ugly story. Dr. Faustman has remained unfazed through all this, and continued at her work. She is a remarkable woman and you can see an interview with her here.

Today there is the following article in the Wall Street Journal. The story is also in many other newspapers. The reader will notice that there are several interesting angles to this story.

Dr. Denise Faustman has long been a great hero to me, and this news comes as no surprise to me. She is one great gal. Many of the readers of this blog will not miss the parallels to another great researcher - Dr. Judy Mikovits.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Anonymous #3 - CFSAC testimony

May 10, 2011 To the Members of the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Advisory Committee:

In 1994, I was a healthy 20-year-old college student who led an active, happy life. One afternoon in June, I was struck down by ME/CFS. Over the years I got gradually worse until I became essentially bedbound in 1999 and again in 2005.

My plans for graduate school, a career, marriage, and children have been on hold for 17 years..

I think there is a common misconception, even among doctors and researchers well-versed in ME/CFS, that this illness is not especially disabling. Even if they are unable to work, the thinking goes, most patients are able to take care of their basic needs and engage in activities of daily living.

That’s not the case for me and many people I know. Due to my extreme post- exertional fatigue, muscle weakness, and orthostatic intolerance, I’m forced to spend 95% of my time lying on my back on this mattress in my small bedroom with one window. I haven’t been able to take a shower since 2005—not even with the help of a shower chair. I bathe and clean my teeth in my bed. Once a month my elderly mother washes my hair for me in the bathtub.

My parents bring all of my meals to my room on a tray. If I want to go to another upstairs bedroom I have to be pushed in my wheelchair. I haven’t been able to go downstairs or outside since November. I’ve gone years at a time unable to leave my home, even to see a doctor. I’ve had periods of being incapable of feeding myself. I spend my worst days immobilized and unable to think, watching my bedroom get light, then dark, then light again. Outside my window, the seasons change, over and over.

My incapacity is not unique. One of my friends with ME/CFS hasn’t been able to leave her home in seven years and can’t walk; she uses an electric wheelchair to get to the bathroom. Another needed a catheter in her bladder because she couldn’t get up at all. Other friends are so weak that they can’t lift a cell phone or speak above a whisper. I’m lucky that my parents are supportive; some of the worst off have no financial or physical help from their families.

This intersection of severity and poverty turns their lives into a hellish struggle for food, shelter, and other basics of survival.

As severely ill as my friends and I are, many people are considerably worse off. At least I can type a little bit, lying down, and talk on the phone a couple times per week. But some patients have virtually no contact with other human beings or the outside world; their minds are too weak to hold a thought or to interact. They spend their years in an abyss of isolation and suffering.

How many patients are like me or worse? No one knows, because our government and advocacy groups have never studied us. Most doctors don’t know we exist because we have extreme difficulty going to their offices. We are excluded from virtually every research study, meeting and conversation about this disease.

Despite the realities imposed by severe ME/CFS, our government and even our largest advocacy group continue to portray this illness as a relatively benign condition that might slow people down for a few years, but otherwise isn’t a big deal. Average patients, according to them, should be able to undergo the CDC’s recommended treatments--exercise and psychotherapy—in addition to caring for themselves and maybe even working part-time.

For me, exercise is changing my nightgown. And the exertion of leaving my home for psychotherapy sessions—transported lying down—would set me back so far that I might not be able to lift a glass of water for a year.

Our government so devalues this illness that it spends 100 times more per capita on MS research than it does on ME/CFS research. As I struggle to brush my teeth and walk a few steps to the bathroom or bedside commode, I remember that our government considers my life only 1% as valuable as the life of someone with MS.

The government claims that ME/CFS is a poorly-defined condition, but surely I have as many abnormal test results as an MS patient: an abnormal SPECT scan; a LMW protein in RNase-L; undetectable IgA and low IgG3; POTS/NMH; and evidence for numerous infections (Lyme, Bartonella, Babesia, Erlichia, Mycoplasma, C. pneumoniae, EBV, and HHV6-B). I am also XMRV-positive.

On behalf of all the severely ill patients who can’t represent themselves at CFSAC or anywhere else, I ask you to pass vigorous resolutions on the following issues:

1. The International Classification of Diseases must accurately categorize CFS. This is an extremely urgent matter because the draft proposal is due to become final within months. The International Classification of Diseases 9 Clinical Modification (ICD-9-CM), currently used in the United States, will become the ICD-10-CM in 2013 and remain our country’s medical bible for years or decades. Unfortunately, the draft proposal for the new edition continues to place CFS in a wastebasket section of the ICD for “ill-defined conditions”. Another problem is that CFS will be renamed to CFS NOS (Not Otherwise Specified) . Excluding CFS from classification as a neurological disease under G 93.3, and renaming it CFS NOS, perpetuate the myth that CFS is a vague, poorly-defined non-disease. These actions may cause us to be labeled as hypochondriacs or malingerers, may adversely affect our insurance and disability payments, and will undermine research efforts into biomedical causes of CFS.

You must strongly advise that the CDC reclassify CFS as a neurological disease under G 93.3, the code used for CFS by the rest of the world in their versions of the ICD.

Secretary Sebelius must be made aware that this is a serious issue with a looming deadline. Furthermore, please discuss additional means of pressuring the CDC to recode CFS under G 93.3.

2. In the name of equal rights for equal disability , you must pass a resolution seeking parity in funding for ME/CFS research. ME/CFS should receive funds from Congress commensurate to the serious nature of the disease, and equivalent to what is received by similarly disabling illnesses, like MS. Asking for $100 million in funds would be a step toward righting the current gross disparity in research dollars.

3. The NIH has rejected every grant proposal from the Whittemore Peterson Institute since the publication of its landmark paper in Science linking ME/CFS to the retrovirus XMRV.

Please pass a resolution stating that this is unacceptable, and investigate why this has occurred. Is it because the Special Emphasis Panel responsible for reviewing ME/CFS grants is composed of so many dentists, psychiatrists and psychologists? If so, the review process for ME/CFS grants needs to be changed, perhaps by moving ME/CFS research out of the ORWH to NIAID.

4. Please resolve that the use of the Empirical Definition (Reeves Criteria) in research is absolutely unacceptable and should not be funded by the United States government. The Empirical Definition does not correspond to any disease entity but to a hodgepodge of psychiatric conditions, simple tiredness and unwellness.

Research based on this definition, which grossly inflates the number of Americans with CFS, is virtually meaningless. Furthermore, please advise the CDC and NIH to adopt the Canadian Consensus Criteria, or the equivalent, as the its official ME/CFS definition.

Thank you. It will take me a week to recover from writing this letter, which was the only activity I could manage for several days.

Sincerely, Anonymous

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A voice for the most severe ME patients

It is always of interest to read about the ineptitudes of the functionaries who work for the United States Government. We must thank Dr. Joan Grobstein for her letter to Wanda Jones, outlining the abuse dished out to those ME patients who can actually move and attend a CFSAC. With these recent incongruities we are entering a zone of total absurdity and contempt. Something needs to change at the highest levels of the federal government in relation to this ME disease. They have gotten a free pass for too long and they take advantage of it with continued abuse toward these patients.

Consider for a moment the reality of this illness and of those who suffer at the very bottom. This is where the nuts and bolts of this illness presents itself and where research needs to be directed. Natalie Bouton has done a great service for the rest of us and for the uninitiated by giving us the InvestinME sponsored book "Lost Voices" which documents the most seriously ill ME patients. Soon we will be able to see an astonishingly powerful video produced by Natalie and her son Josh. It packs a wallop and presents this illness at its ground zero moment.

Another powerful articulate and sustained voice of the desperately ill has emerged recently and can be viewed here.