Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a complex illness that affects between 0.5 and 2 percent of adults in the U.S. CFS is characterized by a severe debilitating fatigue lasting at least six consecutive months that is not alleviated with rest. Individuals with CFS also report cognitive, sleep and musculoskeletal pain disturbances, and symptoms similar to those of infectious diseases. At least a quarter of those suffering from CFS are unemployed or receiving disability because of the illness. The annual value of lost productivity in the United States alone is at least $9 billion. Although the symptoms of CFS resemble those of infectious diseases the causes of most cases of CFS are unknown and there is no approved diagnostic test or treatment.

Upcoming Projects:

We are actively seeking funds to support comprehensive studies into the role of the bacteria, fungi and viruses in CFS. Research into the human microbiome is an exciting new pathway to advance our understanding of the role that over a trillion microorganisms in our body play in health and in the development of disease. An altered microbiome may cause not only gastrointestinal problems but also immunological and brain dysfunction. As the world’s largest and most advanced academic center in microbe discovery, identification and diagnosis, the Center for Infection & Immunity at Columbia University is optimally positioned to embark upon the challenge to determine how bacteria, fungi, viruses and toxins (and the immune response to them) contribute to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME). Discoveries in these areas may point us toward treatment strategies that reduce vulnerability through exclusion diets, probiotics or drugs.

The goal of this effort is $1.27 million by December 31, 2014. CLICK HERE to donate now. 

The CII is internationally recognized for expertise in microbial surveillance and discovery. We will employ state-of-the-art methods to identify and quantitate the burden of bacteria, viruses and fungi using high-throughput sequencing and advanced bioinformatic programs. Results of this work may lead to diagnostic tests and treatment for CFS. 

Ongoing Projects:

The CII is systematically pursuing CFS pathogen surveillance and discovery by applying state-of-the-art genetic, proteomic and serologic methods to provided clinical materials.  This project is ongoing and results are pending.The results of the NIH sponsored CFS/XMRV study only highlighted the importance of continued investigation into the mysteries of CFS. And, in 2012 CII partnered with Chronic Fatigue Initiative to embark upon the CFS Pathogen Discovery and Pathogenesis Study. 

Past Projects:

In 2009 and 2010 controversial reports were published (Lombardi et al. Science 2009), (Lo et al. PNAS 2010) suggesting a potential association between Xenotropic Murine Leukemia Virus-related (XMRV) and related viruses (MLV) and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). And, conflicting findings (Switzer et al. 2010) were also published indicating the absence of evidence of these viruses in CFS patients. 

In 2011, the Center for Infection & Immunity was tasked by the NIH to lead the definitive study to determine the association of the presence of xenotr opic murine leukemia virus-related virus (XMRV) and polytropic murine leukemia virus (pMLV) in CFS in a study entitled, “Multicenter Study on Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Myalgic Encephalomyelitis” (U54 AI1057158). And, in 2012 the results were published in MBio(Alter et al. 2012) indicating no association between Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Myalgic Encephalomyelitis and either Xenotropic Murine Leukemia Virus-Related Virus or Polytropic Murine Leukemia Virus. Click here to watch our press briefing. Our work in CFS has appeared in news outlets including the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post, BuzzFeed and Science.