In DepthBiomedicine

For chronic fatigue syndrome, a ‘shifting tide’ at NIH

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Science  11 Nov 2016:
Vol. 354, Issue 6313, pp. 691-692
DOI: 10.1126/science.354.6313.691

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Summary

It has been almost 30 years since researchers led by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention coined the term chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) to describe a mysterious malady characterized by profound fatigue that worsens with exertion and is not relieved by sleep. Sufferers, who prefer to call the illness myalgic encephalomyelitis, also cope with a basket of other persistent and disabling symptoms, from muscle pain to memory problems. For years, patients and scientists alike have complained of being ignored by the nation's major medical research funder: In 2016, the $32.3 billion National Institutes of Health (NIH) directed about $7.6 million to research on the illness. Now, in the wake of a public commitment to the disease by agency director Francis Collins, NIH is stepping up its game, anchoring oversight of the illness in its prominent neurological institute and planning for a doubling of its research investment in 2017. Some of the additional money will fund several new extramural research centers. And last month, the agency began an intensive study of 40 patients at its on-campus research hospital. However, a number of patients and scientists remain unconvinced that the agency has turned a corner, and NIH angered them last week by inviting a prominent CFS skeptic to give a 9 November talk on its Bethesda, Maryland, campus.

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