I’ve been back at the hospital this week, and am being checked over again. My original problem was caused by farming sprays which Dad used on the farm to kill flies when we were kids. Fifty years later, they have done much to unbalance my nervous system.
They have found that children with the illness have abnormal white blood cells which suggests they have been fighting off infection.
In the past, patients suffering from ME have struggled to get themselves taken seriously and many doctors believed that their symptoms of constant exhaustion and muscle pain were ‘all in their head.’
But in recent years a growing number of studies have shown that the illness, also known as chronic fatigue syndrome, could be caused by a virus.
Now scientists have found that children suffering from the condition all have the same abnormalities in their blood, which could indicate their body is fighting off an infection.
The study, carried out at the University of Dundee, Scotland, took blood samples from 50 youngsters aged between 7 and 14, half of whom had ME.
They found that the blood of those with the illness contained higher proportions of free radicals – harmful molecules that can damage cells, tissues and organs.
Their report, published in the Archives of Paediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, also showed that children with ME had large numbers of white blood cells at the end of their lifecycle.
The high turnover of these cells could suggest that the body is fighting off a virus or infection.
ME affects around 150,000 people in the UK including 15,000 children, some as young as five.
They often experience flu-like symptoms and feel constantly exhausted with headaches, a sore throat and muscle pain.
The condition can last for years and on some days people feel so awful they can’t get out of bed.
Professor Jill Belch, an expert in vascular medicine at Ninewells hospital in Dundee who led the project, said: ‘What we’ve found are blood changes that suggest chronic inflammation.
‘This is important because it’s showing an abnormality that we might be able to devise a treatment for, but it’s also important because some people do suggest that ME is a disease of the mind and here we are showing that it is a disease of the body.’
Dr Neil Abbot, of ME Research UK, which co-funded the study, said it was ‘fascinating to discover evidence of a persistent or reactivating viral infection’.
‘Although the cause of ME is unknown, more than half of all patients say their illness started with an infection,’ he said.
‘The study undoubtedly adds greater scientific weight to the existence of a condition which, sadly, many still fail to acknowledge in spite of its severity.’
In recent years scientists have claimed that ME is caused by a virus, raising hopes that a treatment could one day be developed to cure patients of their symptoms.
But other researchers have disputed their findings saying their is ‘no proof’ for this link.