Photo Credit: Itzik Bellenitzki/TPS

Thousands of fibromyalgia patients, the vast majority of whom are women, have struggled for years to get a diagnosis and effective treatment for their disease. However, a new international study with the participation of Israeli researchers indicates a new and precise mechanism for detecting the disease, giving hope to many who live in suffering.

Fibromyalgia, one of the most well-known rheumatological diseases, has received high awareness in recent years, mainly due to the struggle to recognize patients who have difficulty receiving a quick medical diagnosis. Due to the nature of the disease, many of those who suffer from it have to go through tests and consultations which sometimes last for years, until the diagnosis is given.

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A new joint study by the Pain Medicine Institute at Rambam Health Care Campus in Haifa and McGill University in Canada brings with it significant news for these patients.

The discovery that arouses great interest focuses on understanding the role of gut bacteria in chronic pain syndrome fibromyalgia. The Israeli and Canadian presented the first evidence of a different composition of the microbiome in women suffering from fibromyalgia, the composition associated with a change in the concentrations of bile acids in the patients’ blood.

“Fibromyalgia is a common chronic syndrome that causes pain, fatigue, and sleep disorders,” explained Dr. Amir Minerbi, deputy director of the Institute for Pain Medicine at Rambam and the lead researcher in the study. “The syndrome affects women more than men. Despite years of research in the field, the causes of fibromyalgia are not clear, and the diagnosis and treatment we know are not effective.”

Now, the researchers report that women suffering from fibromyalgia syndrome have a different composition of their intestinal bacteria.

“Some bacteria are in increased concentration and some are in reduced concentration in women with fibromyalgia,” said Prof. Yoram Shir, a senior physician in the pain clinic at McGill University Hospital, in Montreal, Canada. “Some of these bacteria are involved in the processes of breaking down bile acids, and indeed in women suffering from fibromyalgia we found significant disturbances in the concentration of bile acids in the blood.”

Currently, there are no objective means for diagnosing fibromyalgia, and the diagnosis is based solely on symptoms reported by the patients, which explains the long period of time that characterizes the diagnosis of the disease. As part of the study, the researchers used artificial intelligence tools, and developed an algorithm capable of diagnosing the syndrome with a high level of accuracy based on the concentration of bile acids in the blood.

“These findings are surprising and show a strong connection between the composition of the intestinal bacteria, the concentration of bile acids in the blood, and the severity of the symptoms in women with fibromyalgia,” Minerbi concluded. “For us, understanding the mechanism of fibromyalgia is critical first of all because it reminds us that this is a real disease, and also that this brings us another step closer to the development of an effective treatment for women and men suffering from pain.”

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