Xmas Appeal: Do you have M.E.? A review of the pioneering work of Dr Melvin Ramsay | 09 November 2018

November 9, 2018


Neil Riley, Chairman of the Trustees, ME Association.

Do you have M.E.?

There are lots of well-known criteria for diagnosing this disease, but they include a multitude of symptoms and, after reading them, can leave you no wiser than before.

Whenever I get confused or uncertain about diagnosis, I return to a book which contains the essence of what this illness is all about.

The saga of Royal Free disease” by Dr Melvin Ramsay contains his description of the classic symptoms of M.E. It has not been bettered.

Dr Ramsay was one of the pioneers involved in the investigation of the illness, starting with the outbreak at the Royal Free Hospital, London in 1955. He then found that there had been other outbreaks. At Dalston in Cumbria, areas in Durham and then in Durban, South Africa.

What he found was that M.E. had three distinct features, namely:

  • a unique form of muscle fatiguability whereby, even after a minor degree of physical effort, three, four, or five days, or longer, elapse before full muscle power is restored,
  • variability and fluctuation of both symptoms and physical findings in the course of a day, and,
  • an alarming tendency to become chronic.

Dr Ramsay had an iron determination that the problems of M.E. should be recognised. He saw hundreds of M.E. sufferers and had a deep empathy with and a compassion for them.

His experiences and teaching laid the groundwork for the clinicians, researchers and patients who followed.

Dr Ramsay helped establish the ME Association which was founded in 1978 and he remained closely involved with the charity until his death in 1990. The Ramsay Research Fund was named in recognition of his pioneering work.

Since the fund started it has provided over £1,000,000 for biomedical research into M.E. Through the years our chosen researchers have looked at the response of muscle to exercise; studied sleep and diet; investigated genetics, mitochondrial dysfunction and immune system response.

The Ramsay Research Fund is the sole supporter of the ME/CFS Biobank, managed at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Here, samples from patients are being used for important in-house research as well as being sent to other research institutions in the UK and around the world.

We receive requests throughout the year from researchers who wish to solve the mystery of M.E. These are scrutinised by our Board of Trustees and those applications that are approved are then sent on for peer review by experts in the field.

Thanks to Melvin Ramsay, and the research that has followed, we now know far more about M.E. than we ever did before. It is now time to build on that knowledge and try to replicate the interesting pilot discoveries that have been made.

Ultimately, the future of our research programme rests with you and me. We can all help to build on the work that Dr Melvin Ramsay started by donating or raising funds to help us find the underlying disease process(es), diagnostic tests, and a cure.

The ME Association Christmas Appeal provides a good opportunity to do just that. We want to invest more money in research in 2019. And we need your help to do it.

The ME Association Christmas Appeal

More Research for M.E. in 2019

If you would like to support our Christmas Appeal, then please:

  • Visit our JustGiving page to start fundraising or to make an online donation,
  • Send a cheque payable to The ME Association (with a note saying that it is for the Christmas Appeal) to ME Association, 7 Apollo Office Court, Radclive Road, Gawcott, Buckinghamshire, MK18 4DF.
  • Make a donation by card over the phone to head office (01280 818964).

For more information, visit the Christmas Appeal page of our website. Thank you.

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