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ME/CFS does not have a potentially definitive name that is free of controversy. Many names are currently used to refer to it, and many more have been used in the past to describe it or similar conditions.

Current nomenclaturesEdit

Myalgic encephalomyelitisEdit

Myalgic encephalomyelitis or ME translates to "inflammation of the brain and spinal cord with muscle pain" and first appeared as "benign myalgic encephalomyelitis" in a Lancet editorial by Sir Donald Acheson in 1956.[1] In a 1959 review he referred to several older reports that appeared to describe a similar syndrome.[2] The neurologist Lord Brain included ME in the 1962 sixth edition of his textbook of neurology,[3] A 1978 British Medical Journal article stated the Royal Society of Medicine conference to discuss the illness during that year clearly agreed Myalgic Encephalomyelitis was a distinct name for the disease. The article also stated the previous word (benign) used with ME was rejected as unsatisfactory and misleading because the condition may be devastating to the patient.[4] In 1988 both the UK Department of Health and Social Services and the British Medical Association officially recognized it as a legitimate and potentially distressing disorder.[How to reference and link to summary or text] Opponents of the term ME state that there is no objective evidence of inflammation. In some patients diagnosed with CFS (e.g. the case of Sophia Mirza), central nervous system inflammation has been documented. Many patients, and some research and medical professionals in the United Kingdom and Canada, use this term in preference to or in conjunction with CFS (ME/CFS or CFS/ME). The international association of researchers and clinicians is named IACFS/ME.

Myalgic encephalopathyEdit

Myalgic encephalopathy, similar to the above, with "pathy" referring to unspecified pathology rather than inflammation; this term has some support in the UK and US.

Chronic fatigue syndromeEdit

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) was proposed in 1988 by researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to replace the name chronic Epstein-Barr virus syndrome when they published an initial case definition for research of the illness after investigating the 1984 Lake Tahoe ME epidemic.[5] CFS is used increasingly over other designations, particularly in the United States. Many patients and clinicians perceive the term as trivializing,[6] and as the 1994 Fukuda paper itself cedes, stigmatizing, which led to a movement in the United States to change the name and definition.[7] Eighty-five percent of respondents to a 1997 survey conducted by the Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction Syndrome Association of America wanted the name changed.[6] The CFS Coordinating Committee (CFSCC) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services formed a name change workgroup in 2000.[8] Terms were recommended which implied specific underlying etiologies or pathologic processes, but work was shelved in December 2003 when the successor CFS Advisory Committee (CFSAC) decided a name change would be too disruptive at that time.[9]

Chronic fatigue immune dysfunction syndrome (CFIDS)Edit

Many patients and advocacy groups in the USA use the term CFIDS, in an attempt to reduce the psychiatric stigma attached to "chronic fatigue," as well as the public perception of CFS as a psychiatric syndrome. The term also calls attention to the immune dysfunction in patients which research suggests is an integral part of the illness.[10][11]

Post-viral fatigue syndrome (PVFS)Edit

This is a related disorder. According to ME researcher, Dr. Melvin Ramsay, "The crucial differentiation between ME and other forms of post-viral fatigue syndrome lies in the striking variability of the symptoms not only in the course of a day but often within the hour.[12]

Low Natural Killer Syndrome (LNKS)Edit

This term reflected research on patients showing diminished in-vitro natural killer cell activity in a small 1987 study in Japan.[13][14] A case definition for CFS in Japan was adopted in 1991 based on the CDC 1988 criteria,[15] an updated diagnostic guideline is planned.[16]

Other current termsEdit

Akureyri DiseaseEdit

Iceland diseaseEdit

This term is used in Iceland.[17]

Tapanui fluEdit

In New Zealand tho illness can be referred to after the town of Tapanui where the first doctor in the country to investigate the disease, Dr Peter Snow, lived.

Historical nomenclaturesEdit

Chronic Epstein-Barr virus (CEBV)Edit

Also as Chronic Mononucleosis, the term CEBV was introduced in 1985 by virologists Dr. Stephen Straus[18] and Dr. Jim Jones[19] in the United States. The Epstein-Barr virus, a neurotropic virus that more commonly causes infectious mononucleosis, was thought by Straus and Jones to be the cause of CFS. Subsequent discovery of the closely related human herpesvirus 6 shifted the direction of biomedical studies, although a vastly expanded and substantial body of published research continues to show active viral infection or reinfection of CFS patients by these two viruses. These viruses are also found in healthy controls, lying dormant.

Yuppie FluEdit

This was a factually inaccurate term first published in a November 1990 Newsweek cover story and never official medical terminology. It reflects a stereotypical assumption that CFS mainly affects the affluent ("yuppies"), and implies that it is a form of burnout.[20] CFS, however, affects people of all races, genders, and social standings,[21] and is not a form of flu. The phrase is considered offensive by patients and clinicians.[22][23][24]

Other historical termsEdit

Atypical poliomyelitisEdit

Name given to describe the 1934 outbreak at the Los Angeles county hospital.[25]

Royal Free diseaseEdit

The historically significant outbreak in 1955 at the Royal Free clinic eventually coined the term Myalgic Encephalomyelitis.[26]

Benign Myalgic EncephalomyelitisEdit

Acheson's term for the 1955 Royal Free Clinic outbreak, it was considered benign in that it was generally nonlethal. As the potentially devastating nature of the illness became clearer, benign was later dropped from use.[4]

Epidemic Neuromyasthenia (ENM)Edit

Epidemic VasculitisEdit

Also Infectious venulitis (IVN), this term was used to describe an outbreak at the Mercy San Juan Hospital in Sacramento, California by Erich Ryll.[How to reference and link to summary or text][3]

Raphe Nucleus EncephalopathyEdit


  1. (No authors listed) (1956). A new clinical entity?. Lancet 270 (6926): 789–90.
  2. Acheson E (1959). The clinical syndrome variously called benign myalgic encephalomyelitis, Iceland disease and epidemic neuromyasthenia.. Am J Med 26 (4): 569-95. PMID 13637100.
  3. (1962) Brain R Diseases of the Nervous System, 6.
  4. 4.0 4.1 (No authors listed) (1978-06-03). Epidemic myalgic encephalomyelitis. Br Med J. 1 (6125): 1436-7. PMID 647324.
  5. Holmes G, Kaplan J, Gantz N, Komaroff A, Schonberger L, Straus S, Jones J, Dubois R, Cunningham-Rundles C, Pahwa S (1988). Chronic fatigue syndrome: a working case definition.. Ann Intern Med 108 (3): 387-9. PMID 2829679. Details
  6. 6.0 6.1 Jason LA, Taylor RR. (2001). Measuring Attributions About Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. J Chronic Fatigue Syndr 8 (3/4): 31-40. TXT formal
  7. Advocacy Archives: Name Change. The CFIDS Association of America. URL accessed on 2008-01-16.
  8. Lavrich, Carol (2003-09-29), Name Change Workgroup, CFSCC, National Institutes of Health Building 31C, Conference Room 10, Bethesda, Maryland: US Department of Health and Human Services, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Advisory Committee,, retrieved on 2007-12-29 
  9. Bell D.S. et al (2003-12-03), Name Change, Hubert H. Humphrey Building, 200 Independence Avenue, SW, Room 800, Washington, DC 20201: US Department of Health and Human Services Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Advisory Committee (CFSAC) Second Meeting,, retrieved on 2008-01-16 
  10. Buchwald D, Cheney P, Peterson D, Henry B, Wormsley S, Geiger A, Ablashi D, Salahuddin S, Saxinger C, Biddle R (1992). A chronic illness characterized by fatigue, neurologic and immunologic disorders, and active human herpesvirus type 6 infection.. Ann Intern Med 116 (2): 103-13. PMID 1309285.
  11. Cho HJ, Skowera A, Cleare A, Wessely S (2006). Chronic fatigue syndrome: an update focusing on phenomenology and pathophysiology.. Curr Opin Psychiatry 19 (1): 67-73. PMID 16612182.
  12. Ramsay MA (1986), "Postviral Fatigue Syndrome. The saga of Royal Free disease", Londen, ISBN 0-906923-96-4
  13. edited by Straus, Stephen E. (1994). Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, New York, Basel, Hong Kong: Marcel Dekker Inc..
  14. Aoki T, Usuda Y, Miyakoshi H, Tamura K, Herberman RB. (1987). Low natural killer syndrome: clinical and immunologic features. Nat Immun Cell Growth Regul. 6 (3): 116-28.
  15. Kitani T, Kuratsune H, Yamaguchi K. (Nov 1992). Diagnostic criteria for chronic fatigue syndrome by the CFS Study Group in Japan. Nippon Rinsho. 50 (11): 2600-5.
  16. Hashimoto N. et al (Jun 2007). History of chronic fatigue syndrome. Nippon Rinsho. 65 (6): 975-82.
  17. Blattner R (1956). Benign myalgic encephalomyelitis (Akureyri disease, Iceland disease). J. Pediatr. 49 (4): 504-6.
  18. Straus S, Tosato G, Armstrong G, Lawley T, Preble O, Henle W, Davey R, Pearson G, Epstein J, Brus I (1985). Persisting illness and fatigue in adults with evidence of Epstein-Barr virus infection.. Ann Intern Med 102 (1): 7-16. PMID 2578268.
  19. Jones J, Ray C, Minnich L, Hicks M, Kibler R, Lucas D (1985). Evidence for active Epstein-Barr virus infection in patients with persistent, unexplained illnesses: elevated anti-early antigen antibodies.. Ann Intern Med 102 (1): 1-7. PMID 2578266.
  20. Cowley, Geoffrey, with Mary Hager and Nadine Joseph (1990-11-12), "Chronic Fatigue Syndrome", Newsweek: Cover Story 
  21. Jason LA, Richman JA, Rademaker AW, Jordan KM, Plioplys AV, Taylor RR, McCready W, Huang CF, Plioplys S (1999). A community-based study of chronic fatigue syndrome. Arch. Intern. Med. 159 (18): 2129-37.
  22. Compact Oxford English Dictionary, Oxford University Press[1]
  23. Packhard, Randall M. (2004). Emerging Illnesses and Society: Negotiating the Public Health Agenda. Johns Hopkins University Press, p. 156. ISBN 0-801-879-426
  24. Anon. "New Therapy For Chronic Fatigue Syndrome To Be Tested At Stanford" Medical News Today[2]
  25. Gilliam AG (1938) Epidemiological Study on an Epidemic, Diagnosed as Poliomyelitis, Occurring among the Personnel of Los Angeles County General Hospital during the Summer of 1934, United States Treasury Department Public Health Service Public Health Bulletin, No. 240, pp. 1-90. Washington, DC, Government Printing Office.
  26. A. Melvin Ramsay (1986). Postviral Fatigue Syndrome. The saga of Royal Free disease.

External linksEdit

ME/CFS nomenclatures at the Open Directory Project

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