International ME Awareness Day 2021

To coincide with International ME Awareness Day 2021 (12th May), ME Research UK (SCIO Charity no SC036942) with the financial support of The Gordon Parish Charitable Trust (SCIO Charity no SC045752) announces a £400,000 joint initiative to fund biomedical research into the role of viruses in ME/CFS (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic fatigue syndrome) globally.


The first award has been offered to a European researcher, with the project looking at how viral infections may lead to damage to the mitochondria in ME/CFS with a global call for applications for funding being made on 12th May 2021.


It is estimated that 240,000 people in the UK have ME/CFS. The total affected by the illness is more than have HIV infection or multiple sclerosis, for example. Women are more likely to be affected than men, and ME/CFS affects all social groups and all ages, including children. Most patients are unable to work full-time, and up to a quarter of ME patients are housebound or bedbound. As the NICE Clinical Guideline says: “The physical symptoms can be as disabling as multiple sclerosis, systemic lupus erythematosus, rheumatoid arthritis, congestive heart failure and other chronic conditions” and yet the illness is often misunderstood, maligned and ill-researched.  


Perth-based ME Research UK is, in terms of project funded, the largest charitable supporter of biomedical research into the causes and consequences of ME/CFS in the world – outwith North America. The charity celebrates the 21st anniversary of its foundation this year and has, since 2000 funded 56 projects and invested over £2.2m in research globally. Currently, the charity funds biomedical projects in the UK (Universities of Dundee, Oxford Brookes, and Newcastle), Australia, Austria, Belgium, Germany, Spain and the United States of America.


Many of those affected by the illness report symptom onset after a viral infection and the late Dr Gordon Parish’s had a life-long interest in viruses and their role in the illness. There is also much work needing done on how a viral event leads to chronic, multi-system symptoms. Given the current reports of those with long-Covid exhibiting parallel symptom to those with ME/CFS and studies suggesting that 10% of those diagnosed with a COVID-19 viral infection will experience lingering illness, ME Research UK’s latest research call is highly topical.


Scientists have not yet identified what causes ME/CFS. It is possible that ME/CFS has more than one cause, meaning that patients with ME/CFS could have illness resulting from different causes - viral infection being one of them. In addition, it is possible that two or more triggers might work together to cause the illness. The role of various viruses in ME/CFS have been the cause of much speculation but little research – this latest investment will help change this.


Publicity would be appreciated for – 12th May 2021 – International ME Awareness Day.


ME Research UK –, Stewart Walker, Operations Director, 01738451234