PolyBio Research Foundation supported project identifies potential biomarker: tiny microclots and activated platelets in ME/CFS blood

The study was led by Dr. Resia Pretorius at Stellenbosch University

(Boston, MA – June 8, 2022) – PolyBio Research Foundation is excited to announce the publication of a new ME/CFS research study led by Dr. Resia Pretorius at Stellenbosch University in South Africa and Dr. Douglas Kell at the University of Liverpool in the UK. PolyBio President and microbiologist Dr. Amy Proal is also a member of the study team. The study is the first in the world to report the presence of tiny fibrin microclots and highly-activated platelets in blood collected from patients with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS). The findings come only months after Drs. Pretorius and Kell identified similar microclots and activated platelets in LongCovid blood, suggesting that the findings could serve as potential biomarkers for both debilitating chronic conditions.

More specifically, the research team used a powerful microscope to identify fibrin microclots in ME/CFS blood samples. While identified micoclots were not as large as those detected in LongCovid, the area under the microscope in which the ME/CFS microclots were imaged was generally more than 10-fold greater in patient blood compared to blood collected from healthy individuals.

Using fluorescent stains that light up under the microscope, the team also demonstrated that ME/CFS blood contained hyperactivated platelets (platelets are tiny blood cells that contribute to clotting processes). The platelets often clumped together and were characterized by significant spread and granule release. ME/CFS samples also showed significant signs of hypercoagulability (a tendency to clot) as measured by a technique called thromboelastography.

There is currently no blood-based biomarker for ME/CFS. It follows that the study findings, if replicated, may be the first to identify concrete abnormalities in ME/CFS blood that could be translated into a routine clinical test for the disease. Such a test would enable doctors across the world to better diagnose ME/CFS. It is also possible that the fibrin microclots and hyperactivated platelets could explain certain ME/CFS symptoms. The clots may block the ability of blood to correctly deliver oxygen to tissue or nerves, which could contribute to symptoms such as fatigue, exercise intolerance or neuropathy. If that is the case, the findings could set the stage for the use of anticoagulants or other medications aimed at breaking up clotting in ME/CFS.

Fluorescence micrographs of fibrinaloid microclots in plasma from individuals with ME/CFS. Each image represents an individual sample. Images were taken at 63× microscope magnification.

Much of the laboratory work central to the study was spearheaded by Dr. Pretorius’ PhD student Massimo Nunes. Massimo was extremely proactive when performing the research, and read hundreds of papers on ME/CFS to best understand the illness.

What causes microclots to form in ME/CFS blood? Future research by the same team will explore the possibility that proteins or products created by viruses or bacteria may contribute to their formation. Most cases of ME/CFS begin with a viral infection or involve multiple exposures to viral or bacterial pathogens over time. Platelets have receptors that allow them to be stimulated by dozens of pathogen products, which can jump-start clotting processes in blood. One future research study will even look for proteins created by viruses – including the herpesviruses – inside the fibrin microclots themselves.

The study was partly supported by generous donations to PolyBio Research Foundation. PolyBio would specifically like to thank the Stroeck family and their philanthropic fund Tempi for their generous support. They would also like to thank a Norwegian private donor who supported this project on behalf of all Norwegian ME patients. His hope is that the study will push back against the CBT/GET proponents who largely dominate Norwegian ME health & welfare agencies.

About PolyBio Research Foundation 

PolyBio Research Foundation is a 501(c)3 transforming how infection-associated chronic conditions like LongCovid, ME/CFS & Post-Treatment Lyme disease are studied, diagnosed, and treated. PolyBio was founded by scientists with complementary expertise (neuroscience, microbiology & genetics). The core PolyBio team conceptualizes research projects that identify root cause drivers of these conditions, and build collaborative teams to make the projects a reality.