The molecular immune signature in ME/CFS as stratification tool for future personalized treatment


ME/CFS is a serious chronic disease for which there is no proper treatment. In this project, blood from the Netherlands ME/CFS Cohort and Biobank (NMCB) consortium will be examined for the presence of so-called immune signatures, which indicate that the immune system is activated. Whether immune cells in ME/CFS are hypersensitive to stimuli will also be investigated. This then leads to the formation of pathogenic inflammatory substances. If this is the case in ME/CFS, this research will show what makes ME/CFS patients sick and result in new treatment options.


The aim of this project is to gain insight into specific immune abnormalities in ME/CFS. The researchers hope to answer the following questions:

  • Can patients with ME/CFS be classified into subgroups using previously identified immune signatures that occur in patients with other disease states who also experience severe fatigue? And can specific symptoms be linked to these immune signatures? 
  • Are immune cells of ME/CFS patients hypersensitive to stimuli and does this result in pathogenic inflammatory substances?


The researchers in this project believe that there are different subtypes of ME/CFS. It is expected that better treatment can be developed if these groups are better understood. To determine whether there are different subtypes, blood from the NMCB will be examined for the presence of different immune signatures. Drugs against some immune signatures already exist. If it is known which signature a patient has, drugs can be tested in a targeted way. It also examines whether immune cells in these patients are hypersensitive to stimuli, causing pathogenic inflammation. This insight could lead to the development of better treatment methods.

Part of the NMCB consortium

This research project is associated with the Netherlands ME/CFS Cohort and Biobank (NMCB) consortium. More information on the consortium and the other NMCB research projects can be found on the NMCB consortium’s page.

Collaboration partners

This research is done by the Netherlands ME/CFS Cohort and Biobank (NMCB) Consortium with J.A. Bosch as project leader. The ME/CFS samples and clinical data come from the NMCB biobank. Biobanks with samples from historical cohorts of patients with depression, chronic and infectious diseases are available at Erasmus MC. The project team consists of renowned scientists selected for their knowledge of the required technologies and working at Erasmus MC and Radboudumc. Patient organisations contributed to development of the project plan. The project leaders of 'Immune signatures in ME/CFS' are W.A. Dik and M.A. Versnel (Department of Immunology, Erasmus MC, Rotterdam).

(Expected) Results

The specific immune signatures found will be made available as a diagnostic test, which can be requested by doctors from all over the Netherlands. Importantly, drugs against certain immune signatures are already available. These can therefore be tested quickly in ME/CFS patients. The research into immune cell hyperstimulation will also be able to provide clues for the development of new treatments for ME/CFS. This project will provide a new concept for ME/CFS treatment. 


Project number:
Duration: 8%
Duration: 8 %
Part of program:
Related subsidy round:
Project lead and secretary:
A. Dik PhD
Responsible organisation:
Erasmus Medisch Centrum