Dr Ian Lipkin’s Study of the Gut Microbiome in ME/CFS Patients – Part 1 of 9

Part 1 of 9

Background to the Gut Microbiome Study of ME/CFS Patients

Dr Ian Lipkin. Photo courtesy of the Columbia University Center for Infection and Immunity

Dr Ian Lipkin.
Photo courtesy of the Columbia University Center for Infection and Immunity

Dr. W. Ian Lipkin is director of the Centre for Infection and Immunity at Columbia University, New York, and is a world leader in terms of discovering pathogens. He has been described as “The World’s Most Celebrated Virus Hunter”, and as “A Man From Whom Viruses Can’t Hide.”

Columbia University’s website explains that Dr Lipkin & his team “have discovered or characterized more than 500 infectious agents including Borna disease virus, West Nile virus, LuJo virus, human rhinovirus C, piscine reovirus and canine hepacivirus.”

The Chronic Fatigue Initiative (CFI) is a non-profit organisation funded by the Hutchins Family Foundation, and has worked in collaboration with Dr Lipkin and his colleague, Dr Mady Hornig, and other researchers, designing and implementing a large biomedical investigation into chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), also known as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME), looking for pathogens and immune system dysregulation in blood plasma, white blood cells and spinal fluid.

Drs Lipkin and Hornig have now completed a study of blood plasma, and spinal fluid. Their team have not yet found any pathogens clearly related to the disease, but they did discover some intriguing immune biomarkers in the blood plasma and spinal fluid studies, suggesting immune dysregulation in ME/CFS patients.

Dr Mady Hornig. Photo courtesy of the Columbia University Center for Infection and Immunity

Dr Mady Hornig.
Photo courtesy of the Columbia University Center for Infection and Immunity

The results have not yet been published, but Dr Lipkin is excited by them. They relate to changes in levels of cytokines, which are immune-system messenger proteins. He says “I think the cytokine data, that we are putting out are going to clearly demonstrate there is an organic problem here.”

Dr Lipkin believes that this apparent immune system dysregulation must be caused or triggered by an infectious agent, or microbial agents, and he wants to find the agent responsible.

His team is now studying white blood cells from ME/CFS patients and he plans to study the gut microbiome as the next step in a comprehensive research program, with his colleague, Dr Mady Hornig, who is taking the role of principal investigator for the gut microbiome study.

Dr Hornig is the director of Translational Research, at the Center for Infection and Immunity, and Associate Professor of Epidemiology. She is internationally recognized for her clinical research on the role of microbes, immunity, and xenobiotics in relation to disorders such as autism, schizophrenia, PANDAS (Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal infection), attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and chronic fatigue syndrome.

Dr Lipkin and Dr Hornig intend to study the gut microbiome of ME/CFS patients in a wide ranging and rigorous hunt for viruses, bacteria and fungal agents, seeking the cause of the immune dysregulation that they have detected in ME/CFS.

The gut microbiome is the collection of microorganisms that live within the gastrointestinal tract, consisting of bacteria, viruses and fungi.

Columbia University Medical Center campus. Image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:ColumbiaMedicalCenter.jpeg

Columbia University Medical Center campus.
New York.
Image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:ColumbiaMedicalCenter.jpeg


This is a series of blogs based partly on an interview with Dr Ian Lipkin by Simon McGrath in January 2014, in relation to the intended study of the gut microbiome of ME/CFS patients. (To see Simon’s article please click here.)

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Posted in The Microbe Discovery Project blog series
One comment on “Dr Ian Lipkin’s Study of the Gut Microbiome in ME/CFS Patients – Part 1 of 9
  1. Wife and I fit the Canadian ME case definition. High viral loads, low IGG, no stage 3-4 Delta sleep, PEM. We’re moving from Florida out to Utah or Nevada in search of treatment centers. We are both on disability but my wife has had CFS/ME 19 years and I only 4 years.

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The Microbe Discovery Project blog series