DePaul University Newsline > Sections > Campus and Community > Mono and Chronic Fatigue Research
By Kristin Claes Mathews /
January 26, 2021 /
Posted in: CAMPUS AND COMMUNITY /
Many college students fully recover from infectious mononucleosis within one to six weeks, but some go on to develop chronic fatigue syndrome, also called myalgic encephalomyelitis or ME/CFS. A longitudinal study from DePaul University and Northwestern University followed 4,501 college students to examine risk factors that may trigger a longer illness. The research appears in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases and was funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
“We are the only study to collect comprehensive biological and behavioral data prior to illness onset, which for the first time allowed us to identify some of the predisposing circumstances or conditions that make certain individuals more likely to get ill due to mono and stay ill," says Jason, director of the Center for Community Research at DePaul.
“Some people who are attacked by a virus stay sick. What we've found is that their emotional functioning and psychological states are not statistically different from those who get attacked by the same virus and recover. This becomes important validating information for those people who have this illness," Jason says.
Participants in the study each completed seven different surveys to assess potential symptoms of ME/CFS. They also received a comprehensive psychiatric exam, and provided samples of serum, plasma and white blood cells. In future publications, researchers aim to analyze cytokine networks in participants' blood and other risk factors. Deficiencies in certain cytokines, or proteins important in cell signaling, “might suggest predisposing irregularities in immune response," wrote the researchers.
Vicky Whittemore, the program director at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, stated that NINDS is supporting follow-up research to continue to study this cohort, and to examine possible predictors of COVID-19 as well. “Since we have baseline data on nearly all of the 4,500 students, we can use our same database to tease out risk factors for COVID infection as well as prolonged recovery from that illness," Katz says. Other co-authors on the study are Joseph Colter, Mohammed F. Islam and Madison Sunnquist of DePaul's Center for Community Research.
The study, “Risks for Developing ME/CFS in College Students Following Infectious Mononucleosis: A Prospective Cohort Study" was supported by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, grant number AI 105781. The full study is available at http://bit.ly/MECFS_2021.