Chronic fatigue syndrome: a working case definition

Ann Intern Med. 1988 Mar;108(3):387-9. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-108-3-387.


The chronic Epstein-Barr virus syndrome is a poorly defined symptom complex characterized primarily by chronic or recurrent debilitating fatigue and various combinations of other symptoms, including sore throat, lymph node pain and tenderness, headache, myalgia, and arthralgias. Although the syndrome has received recent attention, and has been diagnosed in many patients, the chronic Epstein-Barr virus syndrome has not been defined consistently. Despite the name of the syndrome, both the diagnostic value of Epstein-Barr virus serologic tests and the proposed causal relationship between Epstein-Barr virus infection and patients who have been diagnosed with the chronic Epstein-Barr virus syndrome remain doubtful. We propose a new name for the chronic Epstein-Barr virus syndrome--the chronic fatigue syndrome--that more accurately describes this symptom complex as a syndrome of unknown cause characterized primarily by chronic fatigue. We also present a working definition for the chronic fatigue syndrome designed to improve the comparability and reproducibility of clinical research and epidemiologic studies, and to provide a rational basis for evaluating patients who have chronic fatigue of undetermined cause.

MeSH terms

  • Chronic Disease
  • Fatigue* / etiology
  • Herpesviridae Infections* / diagnosis
  • Herpesvirus 4, Human / immunology
  • Humans
  • Serologic Tests
  • Syndrome
  • Terminology as Topic