Like much of the rest of the world, the ME/CFS CRC at The Jackson Laboratory has been shut down since mid-March of this year because of COVID-19. Since that time, we have not been able to receive or process any ME/CFS patient samples. Some JAX employees have stayed on-site during the shutdown, but their work has focused entirely on COVID-19 testing and research.
It seems that COVID-19 could be very relevant to ME/CFS. Infections, and especially viral infections, are known to be a common trigger that causes ME/CFS disease. There are now also reports of people with COVID-19 going on to develop an ME/CFS-like set of symptoms. Our collaborator at Bateman Horne Center, Lucinda Bateman, MD, said in an article in Bustle that medical professionals generally treat acute cases of viral infections, but then stop treating patients once they have recovered from the initial infection. She explains that, “because we generally, in the past, haven’t taken viruses seriously, we simply tell patients to ‘go home and rest up’. The significant fraction (which might be as high as 1-10%) of patients who do not recover normally after infection have often been marginalized and forgotten.”
We are now beginning to resume our research on ME/CFS. JAX began a phased reopening on June 1st with all on-site employees being routinely tested for COVID-19 infection to keep the workplace safe. Bateman Horne Center began to collect patient samples again this past week for the project. We are very excited to begin working on our ME/CFS study again, and it will be very interesting to see in what ways COVID-19 impacts ME/CFS, and vice versa.