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New Fibromyalgia Diagnostic Blood Test – For Real?

  [ 67 votes ]   [ 13 Comments ]
By Karen Lee Richards • • March 13, 2013

For too many years, people with fibromyalgia have been forced to deal with medical professionals, family and friends who don't believe fibromyalgia is a real medical illness.  Gradually over the past 15 years, more and more people, including doctors, have accepted the fact that FM is a very real biological condition – helped in large part by the FDA's approval of three drugs to treat FM.

Despite the progress, however, it still takes an average of three to five years – and according to the Journal of Managed Care Pharmacy, between $4,800-$9,300 annually – for someone with FM to get an accurate diagnosis.  And there are still far too many doctors who remain skeptical even though multiple studies have demonstrated some of the biological underpinnings of FM.

Needless to say, a simple blood test that can definitively diagnose fibromyalgia would be a huge boon to the millions who suffer daily with this painful illness.  If nothing else, it should put and end to all of the skepticism about FM.  

Enter EpicGenetics, a company who, according to their Website, “is a leader in the field of molecular diagnostics.”  On March 4, EpicGenetics issued a press release announcing the first test to objectively diagnose fibromyalgia.  The test was developed in conjunction with a study that identified unique immunologic patterns in FM patients.  

The Research Behind the Test

In a study published December 17, 2012 in the journal BMC Clinical Pathology, researchers measured plasma cytokine levels in a group of 110 patients with a diagnosis of FM and determined responses to mitogen challenges of their peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC). The cytokine levels of these patients were then compared with those in a group of 91 matched healthy controls.

The found that cytokine levels of stimulated PBMC cultures of healthy control subjects were significantly increased as compared to matched non-stimulated PBMC cultures. In contrast, the concentrations of most cytokines were lower in stimulated samples from patients with FM compared to controls.

“The result was the discovery of a major set of differences in cell-mediated immunity in the fibromyalgia group versus the healthy patients.” said Bruce S. Gillis, MD, MPH, member of the clinical faculty at the University of Illinois Chicago College of Medicine and founder of EpicGenetics, in the March/April 2013 issue of Fibromyalgia and Chronic Pain Life. “And this discovery was opposite to what was anticipated.  Specifically, while fibromyalgia patients are often considered to be “hyper/overactive responders,” we identified that the fibromyalgia patients had a depressed and dysregulated immune system...”

Another Significant Conclusion

Up until now, FM has had somewhat of a confusing history, being assigned to a variety of medical specialties.  At first it was thought that FM was a rheumatologic disorder because it seemed to be some type of inflammatory fibro-connective problem.  Then when it was discovered that FM had some central nervous system abnormalities, it was thought to be more of a neurologic disorder.  The current hypothesis is that “FM develops from interactions between the autonomic central nervous system, the hypothalmic-pituitary axis and the immune system.  

According to Dr. Gillis, in addition to developing the test, the study also revealed that “there is a specific pathway in fibromyalgia – and it defines fibromyalgia as an immunologic medical disorder.”  

Unanswered Questions

This study and the resulting test are certainly interesting and potentially very exciting, but there remain some unanswered questions and concerns.

  • In the discussion portion of the study, it was noted, “Chronically depressed patients are characterized by higher pro-inflammatory cytokine blood levels and lower anti-inflammatory cytokine levels in blood, similar to what has been found in patients with chronic pain. Decreased IL-10, IL-1? and IFN-? production by mitogen-stimulated PBMC was observed in depressed patients which correlated with our findings.”  The question is, would this test be able to distinguish between depression, other chronic pain conditions and fibromyalgia?

  • Patients with any rheumatologic, autoimmune, immunologic, inflammatory, infectious or neoplastic disorder were excluded from the study. Would the test identify FM if a patient has another immunologic disorder as well?

  • Finally, we have to keep in mind that this was just one study.  Studies need to be replicated before they they can be accepted as absolute scientific fact.  Just a little over three years ago, we thought that the cause of ME/CFS (chronic fatigue syndrome) was discovered when a study found the retrovirus XMRV in ME/CFS patients.  A test to detect XMRV was quickly brought to market.  Unfortunately, after many additional studies, the original findings were retracted.  

Hopefully, this study and test will hold up to further testing that includes other cohorts in addition to healthy controls.  Only time will tell.

Info About the FM Test

The FM/a Test Kit can be ordered at or by calling 855-775-FIBRO, however, the test is only available upon the order of a licensed physician. Visit The FM Test Website for instructions on what to do when you receive the test kit. They also have an option available for people who do not have a regular doctor.

The FM/a Test is not an inexpensive test. It costs $744, plus your doctor's office or laboratory may charge an additional fee for drawing the blood. And since it is a new test, it's unlikely that most insurance companies will cover it yet, although EpicGenetics says they will work with patients to try to get as much reimbursement as possible for the test from their insurance companies.


Sources: BMC Clinical Pathology, December 17, 2012. By Frederick G. Gehm, Igor M. Gavin, Oleksiy Karpenko, Valerie Lindgren, Sujata Gaitonde, Peter A. Gashkoff, and Bruce S. Gillis. Department of Pathology, University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), Chicago, IL, USA. E-mail:

Fibromyalgia & Chronic Pain Life, “Fibromyalgia as a Real Medical Disease,” by Bruce S. Gillis, March/April 2013.

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Article Comments Post a Comment

Pro or anti inflammatory?
Posted by: cormick
Mar 13, 2013
"In the discussion portion of the study, it was noted, “Chronically depressed patients are characterized by higher pro-inflammatory cytokine blood levels and lower anti-inflammatory cytokine levels in blood, similar to what has been found in patients with chronic pain. Decreased IL-10, IL-1? and IFN-? production by mitogen-stimulated PBMC was observed in depressed patients which correlated with our findings.”

I am confused. Are not TNF alpha and Interferon gamma infact pro inflammatory cytokines?
Reply Reply

Posted by: cormick
Mar 13, 2013
There is no refernce to TNF alpha, but is interferon gamma not proinflammatory?


Pro or anti inflammatory?
Posted by: cormick
Mar 13, 2013
Also is IL 1 A not in fact pro inflammatory?
Reply Reply

Posted by: cormick
Mar 13, 2013
Or is it that depressives start with high proinflamatory cytokines but sub respond on stimulation like FMers?
Is the group "people with chronic pain" the same as FMers?
Reply Reply

what abt overlapping conditions?
Posted by: AuntTammie
Mar 13, 2013
Since illnesses like ME/CFS & MCS, which can cause increases in cytokines, often occur in people who also have Fibro, I would think that they would skew the results & people with those conditions might get a false negative for Fibro if this test is used diagnostically.
Reply Reply

New Fibromyalgia Diagnostic Blood Test – For Real?
Posted by: Matariki
Mar 13, 2013
I am sorry that I cannot become excited. Over many years I have seen "promising" stuff like this being suggested and it has all turned to custard in the end.

We need recognition of that fact that FM actually exists instead of health professionals ignoring it or diagnosing some other condition which results in tests over and over again.
Reply Reply

The defining difference
Posted by: IanH
Mar 13, 2013
between MDD and ME/CFS (including at least 48% of FM) is the raised level of RNAse_L. This is never found in MDD.
Nor is the NK bright cell dysfunction.

Also there is a difference in the pro-inflammatory cytokine network. In early depression these elevations are not typically seen but they are always seen in ME/CFS and FM.

Phenotypically people with ME/CFS have different mental factors:
People with ME/CFS respond badly to exercise, their IFN-gamma and other pro-inflammatory cytokines are raised in response to the exercise but the exercise in MDD has the opposite effect even though pro-inflammatory cytokines can be raised to start with.

MDD is not like psychogenic depression, it is a neuro-immune disease, unfortunately called depression. Just because it is called depression does not make it psychogenic but of course it has many psychological consequences just as ME/CFS has psychological consequences but they are totally different.
Reply Reply

Also see research by Chazotte
Posted by: IanH
Mar 13, 2013
The raised level of IFN-gamma and IFN-alpha cause a significant mitochondrial membrane depolarization. While people with depression do have some mitochondrial dysfunction the membrane is not depolarized. The depolarized membrane causes severe oxidative stress which is the key physiological problem in ME/CFS.

I am afraid these sorts of tests are not yet possible. We will have to wait for more research by people like Sonya Marshall-Gradisnik, ekua Brenu and Don Staines for more quality immunological markers that can be cost-effectively used. We already have markers but they are not cost-effective


test, test, test, test, test
Posted by: marigevana
Apr 11, 2013
Not to offend anyone, but-I'm tired of being tired and hurting all the time. Someone please make a magic pill before I lose my mind.
Reply Reply

Also tired of the daily battle, both physical and psychological
Posted by: thekamfam
Dec 31, 2014
I am with you here. Tired of the daily battle. But we need to find a "real" test that will convince all of the doubters (doctors, spouses, family) who continue to believe this is "all in my head". Until we have some kind of definitive test to convince them and to differentiate ourselves from the misdiagnosed FM patients (the ones who keep telling me they were cured by a chiropractor or a diet), then we will never have anyone finding a "magic pill". Because no one understands exactly what they are treating. Even this article says... it's rheumatologic, no it's neurologic, no it's immunologic. Like I said they can't really treat it until they know what it is.


A Good Reason to Avoid This Test
Posted by: SelenaMKI
Jan 1, 2015
A good reason to avoid this test: "I don't personally think that [the FM/A] test has any diagnostic value given what we know at present," Daniel Clauw, director of the Chronic Pain and Fatigue Research Center at the University of Michigan and a fibromyalgia expert, told ProteoMonitor via email.
Reply Reply

Fibromyalgia Blood Test
Posted by: LSmith6
Oct 3, 2016

My doctor claim there is no blood test for Fibromyalgia. I told her about your article. How can I convince her this information. I have send her the web site and the name of the test. Is there a phone number for her or her nurse to talk to someone?

T. Smith
Reply Reply

To T. Smith
Posted by: ProHealth-Editor
Oct 3, 2016
Your doctor can call EpiGenitics, the company that developed the FM/a blood test, at 855-775-3427. They should be able to answer any questions she may have.

Karen Lee Richards


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