Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) – which causes glandular fever (mononucleosis), has received much attention in ME/CFS research. While research has linked EBV to the onset of ME/CFS, less is known – particularly in young people, about what happens to symptoms and severity over time in ME/CFS following EBV infection.
Therefore, authors of a recently published study recruited 25 young people (80% female) who were diagnosed with ME/CFS following a confirmed case of EBV infection – participants were followed up over a one-year period after ME/CFS diagnosis. Importantly, the criteria used to diagnose ME/CFS in both groups required the presence of post-exertional malaise.
The young people were split into two groups:
- 12 adolescents aged between 14-16 years
- 13 young adults aged between 19-22 years
Participants were assessed at three time points – upon ME/CFS diagnosis, and at 6- and 12-months following diagnosis. At each timepoint, participants were asked to complete questionnaires relating to ME/CFS symptoms and severity, and the impact of the disease on activities of daily life.
Findings suggested that while all participants experienced severe limitations in activities of daily life due to ME/CFS after EBV infection, there did appear to be some differences between the two age groups. Most notably, at one year following ME/CFS diagnosis, while all young adults continued to meet diagnostic criteria for ME/CFS, 54% of the adolescents no longer did – something the authors state is “in line with evidence indicating a better prognosis of ME/CFS in children”
It is important to note that this study uses a small number of participants- only 25 overall (which decreased further to 20 at one year follow up). Due to this, the findings presented can only be interpreted as exploratory, and more research is needed before firm conclusions can be drawn.