New research body to look at chronic fatigue syndrome | British Medical Journal | 24 April 2013

From the British Medical Journal, 24 April 2013. Story by Krishna Chinthapalli. With thanks to the BMJ for permission to publish this item in full.

A national consortium has been set up to help research into chronic fatigue syndrome or myalgic encephalitis (ME). Researchers and funders attended its launch in London on 22 April.

The new UK-wide Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Myalgic Encephalitis Research Collaborative (CMRC) is chaired by Stephen Holgate, professor of immunology at the University of Southampton. At a press conference he announced, “For the first time the research community and funders in the UK have joined forces in this unique new collaboration to create a step change in the amount and quality of research into chronic fatigue and ME.”

Esther Crawley, a reader in child health at the University of Bristol, who researches chronic fatigue syndrome in childhood, said, “We need to join forces with charities and funders to ensure we can best address the needs of patients suffering from this often life changing condition which affects 1-2% of adults and teenagers in Britain.”

Five chronic fatigue syndrome charities will be involved in funding research through the consortium, which is also supported by the Medical Research Council, the National Institute of Health Research, and the Wellcome Trust. The consortium will set up four work streams and quarterly meetings at which over 70 researchers will liaise with charity funders.

Sonya Chowdhury, chief executive of the charity Action for ME, welcomed the initiative. “The launch of the collaborative is a major step forward and comes at an already exciting time for research in the ME arena. By working creatively together we can stimulate the interest and funding so desperately needed for research into this illness,” she said.

The new body follows on from the Medical Research Council’s recent drive to fund research into the illness, in which over £1.6m (€1.9m; $2.4m) has been allocated.1 Holgate noted, “In five years there were three grants . . . funded by the MRC. Within the last year the MRC has awarded five new grants.

“It is the MRC initiative that has led to this collaborative mainly because it demonstrated to us that high quality work could be done. The UK is now leading the world. It is the first time this has ever been done anywhere in the world—to get buy-in from these different communities.”

Carmine Pariante, professor of biological psychiatry at King’s College London, received one of the MRC grants. He is now investigating the association of raised inflammatory markers, such as C reactive protein, with chronic fatigue syndrome and hopes to find a new biomarker for the disease, with support from the new body. At the launch he said, “It wasn’t my field. I would have been less likely, definitely, to enter the field of chronic fatigue syndrome if it wasn’t for the MRC highlighting [the] syndrome.”

And this small paragraph appeared in this week’s ‘New Scientist’

Hunting fatigue

There’s no place to hide for the elusive agent causing chronic fatigue syndrome. The world’s largest effort to unmask the cause of the disease was launched this week in the UK. The CFS/ME Research Collaborative will follow several lines of enquiry, including individual differences in cell metabolism.

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