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Project Descriptions


Maintenance and Incidence of ME/CFS following Mono (Supplement) 

Principal Investigators: Leonard A. Jason, PhD, Ben Katz, M.D.

A grant funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, NIH


The principal investigators have considerable experience with chronic illnesses and have helped develop the National Institute of Neurological Diseases and Strokes (NINDS) common data elements for ME/CFS. The PIs and the research team have successfully launched a series of NIH supported epidemiologic and prospective studies of ME/CFS. Most recently, with NIH support, we have been studying the development of ME/CFS following IM in college students. We are in the process of identifying variables that are potential risk factors contributing to the development and maintenance of ME/CFS, and we would like to extend this work to those who develop COVID-19, resulting from the SARS CoV-2, as there are no prospective studies that have collected baseline data among individuals before the onset of infections COVID-19.  Because of our previous and ongoing work, we have such data.  From 2014 through 2018, we collected psychological and biological data from 4,501 healthy college students and are continuing to follow them for the development of ME/CFS. Our funding request would allow us to collect similar data on the COVID-19 pandemic, by re-contacting and interviewing participants on whom we already have baseline data. By doing so, we will be able to compare the biological and behavioral data of young adults experiences prior to the epidemic and during the epidemic. We will be able to compare our findings between those who became ill with COVID-19 and those who did not become ill with COVID-19, in an effort to identify possible predisposing characteristics. We emphasize the urgent nature of the request, as we will need to see these patients starting in June, July, and August. This cohort is significant in our effort to identify risk factors predisposing patients to developing COVID-19, which may help uncover underlying mechanisms COVID-19.  We believe our proposal addresses an urgent need for research on COVID-19, and effects of COVID-19 on the nervous system”. Our data set is distinctive in a number of ways. First, it represents an ethnically and sociodemographically diverse group of young adult subjects. Second, our proposed grant will allow us to longitudinally follow-up these youth over time using measures that will enable us to better understand the risk factors for incidence of COVID-19, and compare results across populations.  We will be able to study biological as well as psychological variables, because we have stored biological samples from when these students were well, (i.e., pre-illness serum and plasma), and viable white blood cells from a subset of these students from later in the study that will enable us to identify biological markers of COVID-19 in a demographically diverse set of young adults, who will also have provided data regarding their ability to function over time. We will thus be able to understand biological and psychological markers for the development of COVID-19. This study will also lay the groundwork for future prevention and intervention trials, based on the risk factors identified for development of COVID-19.

​P​rospective Study of Young Adults During a COVID-19 Epidemic

Principal Investigators: Leonard A. Jason, Ph.D.
Project Director: Joseph Cotler, Ph.D.

​A grant funded by the DePaul University Academic Growth & Innovation Fund


Our group recently collected baseline behavioral and biological data on 4,501 college students between the years of 2014 and 2018. In the current study, we are recontacting 1,064 of these participants between June 1, 2020 and May 1, 2020, and assess their current functioning through on-line survey questionnaires. Identification of risk factors predisposing patients to developing COVID-19 may help uncover underlying mechanisms of disease. In our prospective study, we hope to compare their baseline data collected five years ago to current data for those after contracting COVID-19 as well as those who did not contract COVID-19. We have now used this grant as pilot work to secure a NIH grant to assess possible predisposing behavioral and cytokine network differences among participants who develop COVID-19.

Maintenance and Incidence of ME/CFS Following Mono 

Principal Investigators: Leonard A. Jason, Ph.D. and Ben Katz, MD

A grant funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke


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.

Pediatric CFS in a Community-Based Sampl

Principal Investigator: Leonard A. Jason, PhD 
Co-Investigator: Ben Katz, M.D.
Project Director: Madison Sunnquist, MA

Grant funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development


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). 

A Prospective Study of CFS Following Infectious Mononucleosis in College Students

Principal Investigators: Leonard A. Jason, PhD  and Ben Katz, MD
Project Director: Joseph Cotler, PhD

A 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.