Images of research to illustrate the weekly research roundup

ME/CFS Research Published 13 – 19 February 2024

The weekly research round-up includes all recent publications about ME/CFS and Long Covid, which includes the key terms: Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, ME/CFS, Long Covid and Post Covid syndrome.

The list is inclusive of all research published to keep our community informed, however, this does not necessarily mean we endorse the studies. We briefly highlight and analyse particularly studies which have caught our attention.


The ME Association maintains a comprehensive index of published research on ME/CFS and Long Covid that is free to use and updated weekly.

Audio Commentary by Dr Katrina Pears

There have been six new ME/CFS studies and thirty-seven new Long Covid studies this week.

Not much has caught our eyes again this week, with a lack of biomedical research. We have highlighted a few of the topics in the ME/CFS research this week below:

Paper one (1) looks at establishing a single definition for ME/CFS to be used across research, as many different definitions exist such as ME-ICC (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis-International Consensus Criteria), the Canadian Consensus Criteria (CCC), Institute of Medicine (IOM) and Fukuda criteria.

The study used questionnaires to determine a consensus among patients, healthcare workers and researchers. This established that post-exertional malaise, cognitive impairment, fatigue, and unrefreshing sleep were the most endorsed core symptoms with at least 80% consensus among participants. The most support occurred for the ME-ICC (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis-International Consensus Criteria) and the Canadian Consensus Criteria (CCC), whereas the Fukuda Criteria received the least support (which we also commonly criticise in our roundups).

Unfortunately, this study is behind a paywall so we cannot read the specifics to know the scale of the research and other conclusions found. Therefore, it is impossible to comment on the strength of this study.

In recent weeks we have also seen an increase in the use of the term “functional somatic syndromes (FSS)” or disorders in research. Two of the papers this week (three (3) and four (4)) also use this term.

The term “functional somatic disorders or syndromes” has been proposed previously as an umbrella term for various conditions characterised by persistent and troublesome physical symptoms that are accompanied by impairment or disability, such as in irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), fibromyalgia (FM) and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). (See more details here: Burton et al., 2020.)

For many of us, this undermines the value of the research, and from the outset, it already feels that ME/CFS is not being accepted as a “real” illness by the researchers, with some research more approaching the lines of a psychiatric disorder. We cover all research which includes the term ME/CFS in our weekly roundups, but it does not necessarily mean we agree with the terms used.

Paper three (3) (which uses this term) looks into respiratory dysfunction in a range of different conditions, finding  more pronounced breathlessness in these conditions. A total of 18 studies were included, only four papers on ME/CFS and Long covid were excluded from the systematic review. Therefore, a very small-scale study to draw conclusions from.

Paper four (4) is also a systematic review looking into the aetiological understanding of ME/CFS, Fibromyalgia (FM), and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)- which are grouped together as functional somatic syndromes (FSS). This systematic review included 452 studies, biological factors were most commonly examined as correlators of FSS. In 90% of the included reviews the methodological quality was low to moderate and high-quality reviews found genetic, immuno-endocrinologic, gastrointestinal (GI), and cardiovascular risk factors. This study was on a much larger scale with 68 ME/CFS studies being included, all of them reviews, which are frequently found to be low quality presenting more opinions than results. This review is an unusual combination, a comprehensive review of aetiological factors of the most well-known FSS all grouped together. The authors state the conditions are needed to be grouped together in further studies.

Paper five (5) is the only biomedical study, points at immune dysfunction and brain abnormalities being key in ME/CFS. This is an NIH funded study, which has widely been covered by the media (see here).

You may also be interested in the Long Covid Reference section, Paper two (2) which is on the long-term outcome of hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) in Long Covid. The researchers found that HBOT can improve the quality of life, quality of sleep, psychiatric and pain symptoms of patients suffering from long COVID, with the clinical improvements gained persisting even 1 year after the last session.

There has been very limited research into the use of HBOT in ME/CFS, with now markedly more research having been conducted into Long Covid (which can be found in our Research Index). There is also a Medical Matters section on HBOT which can be found here.

ME/CFS Research References

  1. Can a consensus occur on a research case definition for ME/CFS?
  2. Neuroplasticity Intervention, Amygdala and Insula Retraining (AIR), Significantly Improves Overall Health and Functioning Across Various Chronic Conditions
  3. Respiratory dysfunction in persistent somatic symptoms: A systematic review of observational studies
  4. Aetiological Understanding of Fibromyalgia, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Classificatory Analogues: A Systematic Umbrella Review
  5. Deep phenotyping of post-infectious myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome
  6. A Pilot Feasibility Study of the Effects of Color and Light Therapy for Patients with Chronic Fatigue/Myalgic Encephalomyelitis

Long-COVID Research References

  1. Epidemiology of post-COVID conditions beyond 3 years and factors associated with their persistence longer than 2 years: A cross-sectional study
  2. Long term outcomes of hyperbaric oxygen therapy in post covid condition: longitudinal follow-up of a randomized controlled trial
  3. COVID-19-induced neuropsychiatric symptoms can persist long after acute infection: a 2-year prospective study of biobehavioral risk factors and psychometric outcomes
  4. Multi-target drugs for the treatment of cognitive impairment and fatigue in post-COVID syndrome: focus on Ginkgo biloba and Rhodiola rosea
  5. Effects of Aerobic Exercise Therapy through Nordic Walking Program in Lactate Concentrations, Fatigue and Quality-of-Life in Patients with Long-COVID Syndrome: A Non-Randomized Parallel Controlled Trial
  6. Management of patients with Long Covid: A qualitative study exploring the roles of nurses in healthcare pathways
  7. Long-COVID-19 autonomic dysfunction: An integrated view in the framework of inflammaging
  8. Modelling the factors that affect medical students’ occupational identity in long COVID: an integrated perspective of motivation, opportunity and ability
  9. Long COVID Symptoms vs. Back Pain and Physical Activity among Students in Poland—Cross-Sectional Study
  10. Long COVID: Blood Analyses Uncover Immune Dysregulation and Thromboinflammation
  11. Genome-wide association study reveals different T cell distributions in peripheral blood of healthy individuals at high genetic risk of type 1 diabetes and long COVID
  12. COVID-19-induced neuropsychiatric symptoms can persist long after acute infection: a 2-year prospective study of biobehavioral risk factors and psychometric outcomes
  13. Describing the Lived Experience and Resource Needs of Individuals With Long COVID
  14. Core Outcome Measurement Set for Research and Clinical Practice in Post COVID-19 Condition (Long COVID) in Children and Young People: An International Delphi Consensus Study “PC-COS Children”
  15. Complement dysregulation is a prevalent and therapeutically amenable feature of long COVID
  16. SARS-CoV-2 RNA-dependent RNA Polymerase is Linked to Mitochondrial Dysfunction in Mouse Heart
  17. The Growing Understanding of the Pituitary Implication in the Pathogenesis of Long COVID-19 Syndrome: A Narrative Review
  18. Long COVID definition, symptoms, risk factors, epidemiology and autoimmunity – A narrative review
  19. Characteristics and Determinants of Pulmonary Long COVID
  20. Incidence and risk factors for long COVID in children with COVID‐19 pneumonia
  21. Restrained memory CD8+ T cell responses favors viral persistence and elevated IgG responses in patients with severe Long COVID
  22. Different but the Same: Common Themes in Illness Experience Among People With Diverse Long COVID Symptoms and the Potential Benefits of Virtual Group Medical Visits
  23. Intrinsic factors behind long COVID: IV. Hypothetical roles of the SARS-CoV-2 nucleocapsid protein and its liquid-liquid phase separation
  24. Associations between forgiveness and physical and mental health in the context of long COVID
  25. Presence of SARS-CoV-2 RNA in COVID-19 survivors with post-COVID symptoms: a systematic review of the literature
  26. Lipidomics signature in post-COVID patient sera and its influence on the prolonged inflammatory response
  27. Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis in Long-COVID Scenario and the Therapeutic Potential of the Purinergic System in Neuromodulation
  28. Neutrophil Activity and Extracellular Matrix Degradation: Drivers of Lung Tissue Destruction in Fatal COVID-19 Cases and Implications for Long COVID
  29. Risk of long COVID and associated symptoms after acute SARS-COV-2 infection in ethnic minorities: A nationwide register-linked cohort study in Denmark
  30. Carotid body dysregulation contributes to Long COVID symptoms
  31. The impact of COVID-19 vaccination prior to SARS-CoV-2 infection on prevalence of long COVID among a population-based probability sample of Michiganders, 2020-2022
  32. Post-COVID-19 syndrome: persistent symptoms, functional impact, quality of life, return to work, and indirect costs – a prospective case study 12 months after COVID-19 infection
  33. Fatigue and symptom-based clusters in post COVID-19 patients: a multicentre, prospective, observational cohort study
  34. Self-managing symptoms of Long COVID: an education and strategies research protocol
  35. Prevalence of persistent SARS-CoV-2 in a large community surveillance study
  36. Cardiorespiratory optimal point in post-COVID-19 patients: a cross-sectional study
  37. Mediterranean Diet: A Nutritional Suggestion for Long Covid Management Strategies–A Literature Review
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