Risks for developing ME/CFS in college students following infectious mononucleosis: a prospective cohort study, Leonard A Jason, PhD, Joseph Cotler, PhD, Mohammed F Islam, PhD, Madison Sunnquist, PhD, Ben Z Katz, MD in Clinical Infectious Diseases, [doi.org/10.1093/cid/ciaa1886] 25 Dec 2020
Myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) involves severe fatigue, unrefreshing sleep, and cognitive impairment, leading to functional difficulties; prior studies have not evaluated risk factors with behavioral and immune data collected prior to developing ME/CFS. Up to 5% of university students develop infectious mononucleosis (IM) annually, and 9-12% meet criteria for ME/CFS six months later. We sought to determine predictors of ME/CFS.
We enrolled college students at the start of the school year (Time 1), identified those who developed IM (Time 2) and followed them for 6 months (Time 3), identifying three groups: those who developed ME/CFS, those who developed severe ME/CFS (meeting >1 set of criteria) and those who were asymptomatic. We conducted 8 behavioral and psychological surveys and analyzed cytokines at three time points.
238 of the 4501 students (5.3%) developed IM; 6 months later, 55 of the 238 (23%) met criteria for ME/CFS and 157 (66%) were asymptomatic. 67 of the 157 asymptomatic students served as controls. Students with severe-ME/CFS were compared to students who were asymptomatic at three time points. The former group was not different from the latter group at Time 1 (prior to developing IM) in stress, coping, anxiety or depression, but were different in several behavioral measures and had significantly lower levels of IL-6 and IL-13. At Time 2 (when they developed IM), the two ME/CFS groups tended to have more autonomic complaints and behavioral symptoms while the severe- ME/CFS group had higher levels of IL-12 and lower levels of IL-13 than the recovered group.
At baseline, those who developed ME/CFS had more physical symptoms and immune irregularities, but not more psychological symptoms, than those who recovered.
DePaul University Newsroom press release: NIH-funded study examines mono, chronic fatigue syndrome in college students 22 January 2021
“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,” said Jason.