The NIH will take several steps to improve research on myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS), according to a news release.

NIH defines ME/CFS as “an acquired, chronic multi-system disease characterized by systemic exertion intolerance, resulting in significant relapse after exertion of any sort.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that more than 1 million Americans are affected by ME/CFS. Currently, there are no methods for accurate diagnosis or effective treatment of the condition.

The NIH Clinical Center will conduct a study involving individuals who developed fatigue after a rapid onset of symptoms, suggesting an acute infection. The primary objective will be to explore the clinical and biological characteristics of ME/CFS following a probable infection. Researchers from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the National Institute of Nursing Research, and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute will work together on this study. They hope that the results will provide insight on the cause and progression of ME/CFS.

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A trans-NIH Working Group, chaired by Walter J. Koroshetz, MD, director of NINDS, and Vicky Holets Whittemore, PhD, the NIH representative to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Advisory Committee, will help support extramural ME/CFS research. The group will include representatives from 23 NIH institutes to encompass the multidisciplinary approach needed to better understand ME/CFS.

“Of the many mysterious human illnesses that science has yet to unravel, ME/CFS has proven to be one of the most challenging,” said Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD, director of the NIH. “I am hopeful that renewed research focus will lead us toward identifying the cause of this perplexing and debilitating disease so that new prevention and treatment strategies can be developed.”


  1. NIH takes action to bolster research on Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. National Institutes of Health website. Published 29 October 2015. Accessed 30 October 2015.