Woman with head down" Progress in the understanding of CFS/ME, its nature and management, has increased wonderfully over the past 10 years as more and more countries, researchers, and clinicians have become involved. There is much reason for hope."


— Alan Gurwitt, M.D.

Retired clinician

Article Index

What Causes ME/CFS?

The cause of ME/CFS is not yet known, but current research shows strong evidence of immune, neuroendocrine, and circulatory system dysfunction. Research indicates that some parts of the immune system may be in an overactive state, while other parts of the system may be in an underactive state. There is convincing evidence that viruses or persistent viral fragments are associated with ME/CFS in many cases.

The authors of ME/CFS: A Primer for Clinical Practitioners (p. 43) have this to say about causality:

       "ME/CFS usually occurs as sporadic (isolated) cases, but clusters of cases have occurred worldwide. Some outbreaks have affected large
numbers of individuals in a particular community, hospital, or school. In sporadic cases, 20% of patients have another family member with the illness. These facts suggest that both genetic and environmental factors may contribute to the illness.

"ME/CFS frequently starts with acute, 'flu-like' symptoms and immune system changes found in ME/CFS are similar to immune system changes
found in some viral infections. A number of infectious agents have been found more frequently in patients with ME/CFS than in the general population,
but no infectious agent has been proven to be the cause.

"To avoid any possible contamination of the blood supply, patients with ME/CFS should refrain from donating blood.

"Occasionally, ME/CFS has been triggered by environmental toxins, the receipt of an immunizing injection, or surviving a
major trauma.

"Although depression and anxiety may occur secondary to the illness, research studies have shown that ME/CFS and major depressive disorder
can be distinguished by behavioral, immunological and hormonal testing.

"The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recognizes CFS as an organic syndrome, not a psychiatric disorder."