Eliana M Lacerda, Kathleen Mudie, Caroline C Kingdon, Jack D Butterworth, Shennae O’Boyle and Luis Nacul
Department of Clinical Research, Faculty of Infectious and Tropical Diseases, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK
Myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) is a disabling disease characterized by unexplained incapacitating fatigue, accompanied by variable multi-systemic symptoms. ME/CFS causes a significant personal and public health burden, and urgently requires the coordination of research efforts to investigate its etiology and pathophysiology and to develop and validate sensitive and specific biomarkers to confirm diagnosis. This narrative paper describes how people with ME/CFS, together with a multidisciplinary team of researchers, have established the UK ME/CFS Biobank (UKMEB), a unique research infrastructure specifically designed to expedite biomedical research into ME/CFS. We describe the journey that led to its conceptualization and operation, and how the resource has served as a model disease-specific biobank, aggregating human biospecimens alongside comprehensive health information on participants. The UKMEB currently has data and samples from 600 donors including people with ME/CFS and a comparison group with multiple sclerosis and healthy controls. A longitudinal sub-cohort has been established of participants having follow-up assessments at multiple time-points. As an open resource for quality and ethical research into ME/CFS, biological samples and data have not only been analyzed within our research team but have also been shared with researchers across Europe, America and the Middle East. We continue to encourage researchers from academic and commercial sectors to access the UKMEB. Major steps have been taken and challenges remain; these include sustainability and expansion, and harmonization of processes to facilitate integration with other bioresources and databanks internationally.
The UK ME/CFS Biobank was established with a joint grant from the charities ME Association (including continuing support), ME Research UK and Action for ME, and private donors.