- Last Updated: 25 November 2015 25 November 2015
A note from the Editors: The following is a write-up of Dr. Anthony Komaroff’s April 24, 2010 lecture to the Massachusetts CFIDS/ME & FM Association. View the full video of his lecture.
Special Note: In the text, we will refer to some of the slides by title. You may view the slides Dr. Komaroff used in his lecture; this opens a separate window so you can click between the text and the slides with the corresponding titles to see the data.
Use of initials/acronyms: Dr. Komaroff in his lecture used the initials “CFS”, which still designates the name most used in the medical research community, i.e. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Elsewhere on this website we refer to the illness as ME/CFS, forMyalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
For an explanation of p-values, which Dr. Komaroff frequently refers to in his slides, refer to the Association's article on research notes about statistics used in medical studies.
A turning point in understanding CFS as a real, physical illness
By Ken Casanova and Liz Knights
Introduction: A message of real hope
The Massachusetts CFIDS/ME & FM Association was delighted to welcome back Dr. Anthony Komaroff of the Harvard Medical School, one of the preeminent pioneers in the research and treatment of CFS, as our guest speaker for the first of our 2010 lecture series. Dr. Komaroff tailored his lecture specifically to review research developments in CFS over the past decade. Though looking back over a period of ten years might seem dated, a major portion of the information presented was strikingly new to many in the audience.
In fact, Dr. Komaroff delineated the existence of a watershed juncture in the state of CFS research and scientific knowledge, since a number of major doubts as to the validity of CFS as a biological illness have finally been overcome.
“Are there objective biological markers in people with CFS? Until this question was answered, skepticism was appropriate—because in a biologically-based illness it would be expected to be able to measure what is wrong biologically. My answer to this question is, now, absolutely yes! The controversy is over!”
Dr. Komaroff’s lecture’s major theme is that there is now a turning of the tide. Not only did he look back to the more recent accumulation of evidence that CFS is a biologically-based illness, he also looked ahead with optimism toward more rapid advances in the research and treatment of CFS.
His lecture was largely a presentation of research findings as to how CFS affects the different physiological systems in the body. He also outlined his own hypothesis as to the probable causation of the illness. Finally, in his concluding thoughts, he presented his inside-view that much progress has been made in the acceptance of CFS by the medical and research community (“though not as much progress as I would like.”)
Dr. Komaroff, through reviewing various studies, definitively demonstrated that various viruses and some bacteria can “trigger and perpetuate the illness.” It was not so long ago that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) denied the role of viruses in the essential physiology of the illness.
Notice about names
The Massachusetts ME/CFS & FM Association would like to clarify the use of the various acronyms for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), Chronic Fatigue & Immune Dysfunction Syndrome (CFIDS) and Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) on this site. When we generate our own articles on the illness, we will refer to it as ME/CFS, the term now generally used in the United States. When we are reporting on someone else’s report, we will use the term they use. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other federal agencies, including the CDC, are currently using ME/CFS.
Massachusetts ME/CFS & FM Association changed its name in July, 2018, to reflect this consensus.