Rethinking ME/CFS Diagnostic Reference Intervals via Machine Learning, and the Utility of Activin B for Defining Symptom Severity.

Biomarker discovery applied to myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS), a disabling disease of inconclusive aetiology, has identified several cytokines to potentially fulfil a role as a quantitative blood/serum marker for laboratory diagnosis, with activin B a recent addition.

We explored further the potential of serum activin B as a ME/CFS biomarker, alone and in combination with a range of routine test results obtained from pathology laboratories.

Previous pilot study results showed that activin B was significantly elevated for the ME/CFS participants compared to healthy (control) participants. All the participants were recruited via CFS Discovery and assessed via the Canadian/International Consensus Criteria. A significant difference for serum activin B was also detected for ME/CFS and control cohorts recruited for this study, but median levels were significantly lower for the ME/CFS cohort.

Random Forest (RF) modelling identified five routine pathology blood test markers that collectively predicted ME/CFS at ≥62% when compared via weighted standing time (WST) severity classes.

A closer analysis revealed that the inclusion of activin B to the panel of pathology markers improved the prediction of mild to moderate ME/CFS cases. Applying correct WST class prediction from RFA modelling, new reference intervals were calculated for activin B and associated pathology markers, where 24-h urinary creatinine clearance, serum urea and serum activin B showed the best potential as diagnostic markers.

While the serum activin B results remained statistically significant for the new participant cohorts, activin B was found to also have utility in enhancing the prediction of symptom severity, as represented by WST class.