Epstein-Barr Virus & Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Connection to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

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The Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is a member of the herpesvirus family and one of the most common human viruses. You hear a lot about it in relation to chronic fatigue syndrome.

Most people are infected with EBV at some point in their lives, and it usually causes either no symptoms or a mild illness. When infection occurs during adolescence or early adulthood, it can lead to infectious mononucleosis, also known as mono or "the kissing disease." Mono is linked to severe fatigue and sore throat, both of which are symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome.

The is known to effect the central nervous system in some rare cases. When the virus does cause symptoms, they generally resolve in less than 2 months, though the virus remains in the body for life in a dormant state.

Some doctors believe that EBV or a reactivation of it can trigger chronic fatigue syndrome in people who are genetically predisposed to the condition. A 2014 study found that specialized immune-system cells -- called B-cells and T-cells -- were unable to "remember" EBV as they're supposed to after they've been exposed. That means their bodies' reaction to a reactivation would be slowed down, which may allow the virus to gain more of a foothold than it otherwise might. However, more research is needed before researchers can confirm EBV's role in this disease, as so far research has been inconsistent.

The Epstein-Barr virus also may be linked to multiple sclerosis. It's known to be linked to tonsilitis, pharyngitis (inflamed throat), ear infections (in children), and, rarely, Guillain-Barre syndrome.

It's also linked to the development of certain types of cancer, including Burkitt's lymphoma and Hodgkin lymphoma.

Learn more: Immune System Terminology for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

Pronunciation: EP-steen BAR

Also Known As: EB Virus, EBV


Loebel M, et al. PLoS One. 2014 Jan 15;9(1):e85387. Deficient EBV-specific B- and T-cell response in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome.

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