Antibody repertoires against microbiota as biomarkers for ME/CFS (CFSmicroAbs)


ME/CFS is a serious disease with unknown causes and unclear disease mechanisms. This project uses new technology to map ME/CFS patients' immune responses against hundreds of thousands of bacterial and viral structures. By comparing patients with healthy individuals, important differences in immune responses can be identified.  If certain viruses or bacteria turn out to be involved in the development of ME/CFS, this will offer new leads for treatment and prevention through vaccination


Several factors are involved in the development of ME/CFS, such as the body's defences against infectious diseases (the immune system) and changes in the gut microbiome. It is still unknown how the interplay between the immune system and the gut microbiome influence the development and course of ME/CFS. The aim of this project is to investigate whether and how immune responses against bacteria in the gut play a role in ME/CFS.


The researchers in this project will map the immune responses of 900 ME/CFS patients, and 900 individuals without ME/CFS. These individuals are participants in the Lifelines study. Blood samples from over 400 of the ME/CFS patients were collected before they developed the disease. This means that it is possible to study which immune responses precede the development of ME/CFS. The researchers are using new technology that they have developed to map immune responses. This technology can map immune responses against hundreds of thousands of bacterial and viral structures in a large number of individuals. Using machine learning algorithms, the researchers look for immune responses that are specific for ME/CFS. Data from patients will be compared to data from individuals without ME/CFS.

Part of the ME/CFS Lines consortium

This research project is associated with the ME/CFS Lines consortium. More information on the consortium and the other ME/CFS Lines research projects can be found on the ME/CFS Lines consortium’s page.

Collaborative partners

The research is done in collaboration with ME/CFS Lines. This is a multidisciplinary consortium with biobank to find the cause of ME/CFS.  Within the research, different departments of the UMCG (Genetics, Groningen Microbiome Centre) and the Medizinische Universität Wien collaborate. Pluut&Partners is a consulting agency that will help us reach patients and disseminate the results and knowledge gained from our research. Patient representatives from ME/CVS Nederland were closely involved in drafting the research proposal. They will remain involved throughout the project: exchange views on research questions, interim findings, progress and the final interpretation and utilization of the research results. The patient representatives involved will be paid for their efforts.

(Expected) Results

Within this study, we investigate whether and how certain viruses or bacteria are involved in the development of ME/CFS. If certain immune responses are found to be characteristic of ME/CFS, it will offer new leads for treatment and prevention through vaccination


Extensive collaborations and Open Science are essential in research. Therefore, all outcomes will be published in an accessible manner. This research follows FAIR principles and ethical standards with regards to privacy and well-being of patients and participants


Project number:
Duration: 12%
Duration: 12 %
Part of program:
Related subsidy round:
Project lead and secretary:
prof. dr. A.P. Zhernakova MD PhD
Responsible organisation:
Universitair Medisch Centrum Groningen