Viral infections found in people with ME/CFS


Korean researchers searched the medical literature to find which viruses were associated with ME/CFS.

Borna disease virus (BDV), a viral disease of warm-blooded animals, notably horses and sheep, had the strongest links. Other viruses with links were: human herpes virus (HHV)-7, parvovirus B19 enterovirus and coxsackie B virus.

Evaluation of viral infection as an etiology of ME/CFS: a systematic review and meta-analysis by Jae-Hyun Hwang, Jin-Seok Lee, Hyeon-Muk Oh, Eun-Jung Lee, Eun-Jin Lim, Chang-Gue Son in J Transl Med. 2023 Oct 28;21(1):763 [DOI: 10.1186/s12967-023-04635-0]

Review abstract


Myalgic encephalitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) is a long-term disabling illness without a medically explained cause.

Recently during COVID-19 pandemic, many studies have confirmed the symptoms similar to ME/CFS in the recovered individuals. To investigate the virus-related etiopathogenesis of ME/CFS, we conducted a systematic assessment of viral infection frequency in ME/CFS patients.


We conducted a comprehensive search of PubMed and the Cochrane Library from their inception through December 31, 2022, using selection criteria of viral infection prevalence in ME/CFS patients and controls. Subsequently, we performed a meta-analysis to assess the extent of viral infections’ contribution to ME/CFS by comparing the odds ratio between ME/CFS patients and controls (healthy and/or diseased).


Finally, 64 studies met our eligibility criteria regarding 18 species of viruses, including a total of 4971 ME/CFS patients and 9221 control subjects. The participants included healthy subjects and individuals with one of 10 diseases, such as multiple sclerosis or fibromyalgia.

Two DNA viruses (human herpes virus (HHV)-7 and parvovirus B19, including their co-infection) and 3 RNA viruses (borna disease virus (BDV), enterovirus and coxsackie B virus) showed odds ratios greater than 2.0 compared with healthy and/or diseased subjects. Specifically, BDV exceeded the cutoff with an odds ratio of ≥ 3.47 (indicating a “moderate association” by Cohen’s d test) compared to both healthy and diseased controls.


This study comprehensively evaluated the risk of viral infections associated with ME/CFS, and identified BDV. These results provide valuable reference data for future studies investigating the role of viruses in the causation of ME/CFS.


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