Antibiotic Treatment of ME/CFS

A reader asked me to compile a list of of published studies and articles on the use of antibiotics with ME/CFS. Note that with gut dysbiosis as the model, the choice of antibiotics may depend on the details of the dysbiosis (this a 16s or shotgun GI report is suggested. offers excellent reports).

At the Whittemore Peterson Institute (WPI) is a non-profit medical research institute dedicated to the support of those with a spectrum of neuro-immune diseases (NIDs) including: myalgic encephalomyelitis, (ME), fibromyalgia, and similar complex chronic diseases of the immune system and the brain. Dr. De Meirleir earned his medical degree from the Vrije Universiteit Brussel in 1977, and completed an internal medicine residency in the Department of Internal Medicine, University Hospital of Vrije Universiteit Brussel. His current research focuses on a subgroup of ME patients who show evidence of chronic bacterial infection and gut dysbiosis. These patients are responding to specific antibiotic/ probiotic therapy.

A treatment plan (Cecile Jadin’s is similar)

Treatment with antibiotics is difficult because drugs have to penetrate the host cell wall as well as the intracellular organisms. Treatment needs to be prolonged and pulsed, because of continual replication of the intracellular forms. Until adequate diagnostic facilities are readily available treatment needs to be in two stages: the first stage, which is diagnostic, involves the use of two long-term bacteriostatic antibiotics for 6 weeks, and the second, meant to be curative, involves the introduction of a third bactericidal antibiotic.

One possible choice of antibiotics for the first stage is a combination of Doxycycline and Azithromycin. Initially, the Doxycyline needs to be given alone in low dosage for two weeks, because of the risk of a Herxheimer reaction resulting from the release of toxins by damaged bacteria. Such reactions are usually mild and short-lived. If stable after two weeks, Azithromycin in low dosage is added for 4 weeks. Roxithromycin can be used in place of Azithromycin. . Improvement of symptoms, or the occurrence of a Herxheimer reaction, confirms the diagnosis.

Chronic fatigue syndrome or myalgic encephalomyelitis (2007) in British Medical Journal

From Published Books

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: A Treatment Guide, Second Edition
By Erica Verrillo 2002
In this summary by two of the leading researchers

Bottom Line

There is a high success rate reported with antibiotics. Recent research suggests that the failures may be selection of inappropriate antibiotics for the person’s specific gut dysbiosis. IMHO, a 16s or shotgun (Xenogene) microbiome report should be done and carefully analyzed prior to selecting the various antibiotics needed.

The microbiomePrescription site supports evaluation of antibiotics against a microbiome, as well as other prescription drugs.

Unfortunately, there has been only one comprehensive study done, so relative ranking may not apply for many samples (i.e. do a show all and scan for the ones that are most acceptable)

With hand-picking against ME/CFS profiles, results can get quite good. All of the antibiotics involved with prior successful treatment were listed.