NIAID Funds Three Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) Research Centers

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) today announced new research awards totaling $1.9 million in first-year funding to support three Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) Cooperative Research Centers. The centers will conduct broadly focused research addressing basic science, clinical and epidemiological aspects of CFS, including its causes, characteristics and treatment.

CFS is a puzzling disorder in which previously healthy adults or adolescents develop severe unexplained fatigue that persists beyond six months, often in association with a spectrum of additional complaints such as sleep disorders, problems with mental concentration and memory, muscle and joint aches, and tender lymph nodes. The condition was first recognized in the early 1980s, but it remains unclear whether it is a new illness or only newly appreciated. After nearly 20 years of national and international research efforts, the cause or causes of CFS remain unknown.

NIAID established a CFS Research Centers program in 1991. The new four-year awards will be made to the University of Medicine and Dentistry in Newark, NJ, the University of Washington in Seattle, and the University of Miami.

The Newark center, directed by Benjamin H. Natelson, M.D., and active since the program's inception, has recently been attempting to characterize heart and nervous system abnormalities in subsets of persons with CFS. The University of Washington center, directed by Dedra Buchwald, M.D., will receive its second centers award and will continue its examination of identical and non-identical twins, including twin sets in which one twin has CFS and one does not. Twin studies have been frequently used in medical research of diseases of unknown cause to examine the relative contributions of heredity and environmental factors. The Miami center, directed by Nancy Klimas, M.D., is a new award and will focus on "cognitive-behavioral" stress management therapy in persons with CFS. This line of research emphasizes the importance to patients of managing symptoms even when their causes are unknown.

Each of the three centers will also conduct multifaceted projects in other areas of CFS research, including small pilot projects designed to encourage quick pursuit of new scientific leads, unexpected findings and innovative ideas.

The Centers program complements other NIAID-supported research in CFS that began in 1980. To coordinate and enhance federal research efforts, NIAID also works with other NIH institutes that fund CFS research projects in their areas of expertise, and with other federal agencies, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Health Resources and Services Administration.

NIAID is a component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). NIAID conducts and supports research to prevent, diagnose and treat illnesses such as HIV disease and other sexually transmitted diseases, tuberculosis, malaria, asthma and allergies. NIH is an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Source: NIH Press Release, October 20, 1999.

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