Research breaks Chronic Fatigue stereotypes

NEW YORK - Four times a day, for the last 16 years, Maria Brant takes an assortment of supplements and medications to combat the symptoms of exhaustion, lack of concentration and muscle aches.

She has Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, a disease often dismissed and misunderstood by some medical professionals, even one of her own doctors, reports CBS News correspondent Michelle Miller.

"He said, 'lots of women are tired,'" Brant said. "I knew that I was different."

For Brant and as many as 4 million Americans afflicted with CFS , today science offers tangible proof that they have a disease.

"This study says there is a physical root cause or effect to this disease," said Dr. Steven Schutzer, with the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey and a study author.

Researchers examined the spinal fluid of CFS patients, healthy people and patients afflicted with a similar disorder - Lyme Disease. They found over 700 proteins, or indicators of disease, unique to CFS patients alone.

Dr. Nancy Klimas runs a support group for CFS patients in Miami. She can finally tell her patients that science has validated their symptoms, and one day they could be tested for it.

"We haven't had something we could just draw blood in a tube and let us measure [and say] 'Ah-ha! You must have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome,'" Climas said.

Once researchers design that test, they can zero in on a cause and develop better treatments. And not soon enough for Maria Brant.

"Talk to me in two years about this study, then we'll see," Brant said.

  • Michelle Miller

    Michelle Miller is an award-winning CBS News correspondent based in New York, reporting for all CBS News broadcasts and platforms. Her work regularly appears on the "CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley", "CBS This Morning" and "CBS Sunday Morning with Charles Osgood". She joined CBS News in 2004.