Date of Completion


Document Type

Honors College Thesis



Thesis Type

Honors College

First Advisor

Brian Ballif

Second Advisor

Seth Frietze


Chronic fatigue syndrome or myalgic encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME) is a poorly understood condition that affects between .007% and 2.8% of the US population. Characterized by fatigue without a clear cause persisting for at least six months, CFS/ME has never had a precise cause identified. Despite this, researchers have often focused on one of several potential disease mechanisms. While early studies focused on actual pathogens, immune abnormalities in patients with CFS/ME have recently suggested that there may be an autoimmune component to the condition. Given recent research suggesting that the expression of endogenous retroviral elements (ERV) may play a role in activating the innate immune system. I conducted a study to determine whether ERVs might be expressed at greater levels in patients with CFS/ME. To do this, I used a bioinformatic approach to identify ERVs in RNA sequencing data derived from patients diagnosed with CFS/ME as well as controls. Data were processed using the ERVmap scripts and analyzed each ERV identified using a two-sample T test. I identified 49 ERVs that showed a significant positive (p <.05) correlation with CFS/ME. Although my results would be stronger with a larger sample size, they generally show evidence of a connection between expression of ERVs and CFS/ME. Future research should focus on whether inhibiting the specific innate immunity pathways decreases the severity of CFS/ME symptoms.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.