Ongoing project: Do gut viruses have a role in the development of ME/CFS?

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Prof. Simon Carding, Quadram Institute, UK

Funded by

ME Research UK with the financial support of the Fred and Joan Davies Bequest


Our gut is home to trillions of microbes, including bacteria and viruses, comprising the microbiome, which is vital for maintaining health through aiding digestion, providing essential nutrients and vitamins, and boosting our immune system to enable us to repel disease-causing microbes.

Disturbances of the gut microbiome are seen in numerous human diseases including ME/CFS, where many patients also suffer from gut disorders. However, to date most gut microbiome studies, including those on ME/CFS, have focused on bacteria, ignoring or excluding viruses (the virome).

However, viruses living or gaining access to the body via the gut have long been associated with ME/CFS. Gut virome studies have identified striking alterations in virus types and/or numbers in patients with colon cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, diabetes and Parkinson’s disease, and there is also evidence suggesting this may be true for ME/CFS.

These studies in ME/CFS have focused on specific virus families (including herpes viruses such as HHV6 and Epstein-Barr virus), but have excluded other viruses which have more potential to cause disease.

Prof. Carding and his team plan a comprehensive analysis of the gut virome in people with ME/CFS. These will all be patients enrolled in a phase 2 clinical trial (RESTORE-ME) which aims to determine if microbiota transplantation therapy (MRT) is an effective treatment for ME/CFS.


The key aims of the study are to:

  • Define the virome of ME/CFS patients, and identify “signature viruses” which can be distinguished as a new biomarker of disease.
  • Establish the impact of MRT in those patients who respond positively to such treatment through:
    • Loss of the identified “signature viruses”,
    • Evidence that re-activation of latent viruses, including Epstein-Barr virus and HHV6, and reduced or absent endogenous retroviruses that can trigger these dormant viruses to reactivate.

Potential benefits

The study has the potential to provide new insights into the causes and treatment of ME/CFS, and may establish MRT as an effective means of eliminating pathogenic microbes and viruses.

Prof. Carding introduces his research in the short video below.

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