College of Science and Health > About > Centers & Institutes > Center for Community Research > Myalgic Encephalomyelitis & Chronic Fatigue Syndrome > Project Descriptions
It is unclear which psychological and biological variables are potential maintenance factors for ME/CFS following IM because few prospective studies have collected baseline data before the onset of IM and then followed these subjects prospectively following the diagnosis of ME/CFS. In our currently funded NIH study, the focus has been on pre-illness clinical and biological predictors of ME/CFS development following IM in a diverse group of college students. General screens of health and psychological well-being, as well as blood, were obtained at all three stages of the study (Stage 1 - when the students are well; Stage 2 – at the time they are acutely ill with IM, Stage 3 – six months after IM, when they have either developed ME/CFS or recovered). Wave 1 refers to data we are currently collecting and Wave 2 will be funded by the proposed grant and involves a five-year follow-up with the original Wave 1 subjects. Cohort 1 includes those college students who developed IM during Wave 1, and preliminary data indicate that these students showed marked differences at baseline from those who did not develop ME/CFS 6 months following IM. Cohort 2 includes those who did not develop IM in Wave 1. We expect some of these subjects will develop ME/CFS over time. Our study will assess both clinical and biological maintenance factors for of ME/CFS following IM, and determine prospectively the incidence of ME/CFS in a sample of young adults.
Existing published pediatric epidemiologic CFS studies are similar to the first generation of adult CFS prevalence studies in that they have had poor sampling plans [e.g., recruitment at medical centers (Nijhofet al., 2011)], systematic biases that excluded certain people such as youth of lower socioeconomic status and those of color who were less likely to have access to health care (Dobbins et al., 1997), or failed to include a medical examination (Jones et al., 2004). We will determine the prevalence of pediatric CFS in a demographically diverse sample of participants unbiased by illness, help-seeking behaviors, or differential access to the health care system. This study will determine the prevalence of pediatric CFS in a community-based sample, as well as the relative frequency of CFS among various groups (e.g., different age groups, genders).
Principal Investigators: Leonard A. Jason, PhD and Ben Katz, MD Project Director: Joseph Cotler, PhD
Grant funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, NIH
About 12% of young adults will meet the criteria for chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) 6 months following infectious mononucleosis (IM) (Katz et al., 2011). IM appears to be a predisposing factor for some individuals who develop CFS. Many candidate psychological and biological risk factors have been proposed to explain this phenomenon, but almost all lack prospective data from before the patients became ill with either IM or CFS. Some students develop IM while in college. Many student health services have students who use their services when they are medically well (e.g., for sports-related injuries and birth control). Our study will enroll Northwestern University (NU) students who use the university-based health services when medically well, as well as after they develop IM and CFS. We will gather biological and psychological data when students are well, when they develop IM, and when they develop CFS. At the end of the 3 year recruitment period, we will continue to follow those who have developed CFS for 12 months. We will collect data regarding candidate biological and psychological factors thought to be related to the development of CFS, such as previous stressful life events, “action proneness”, coping skills, autonomic dysfunction, cytokine levels and the severity of the IM itself. Our proposed study will compare these prospective pre-illness (IM) variables to post-illness (IM) data between students who do and do not go on to develop CFS. This study will be able to identify risk factors for the development of CFS following IM. We have the unique ability to implement this prospective study with a “captive” and high-risk population for the development of IM and CFS.