ME/CFS: Organic Disease or Psychosomatic Illness? A Re-Examination of the Royal Free Epidemic of 1955 (Underhill and Baillod, 2020)

Pyrrhus

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A re-examination of the Royal Free Hospital outbreak of ME in 1955, by Rosemary Underhill and Rosemarie Baillod.

Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: Organic Disease or Psychosomatic Illness? A Re-Examination of the Royal Free Epidemic of 1955
https://www.mdpi.com/1010-660X/57/1/12/htm

Excerpt:
Underhill and Baillod 2020 said:
Background and Objectives:
Controversy exists over whether myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) is an organic disease or a psychosomatic illness. ME/CFS usually occurs as sporadic cases, but epidemics (outbreaks) have occurred worldwide. Myalgic encephalomyelitis was named to describe an outbreak affecting the lymphatic, muscular, and nervous systems that closed the Royal Free hospital for three months in 1955. Fifteen years later, two psychiatrists concluded that epidemic hysteria was the likely cause. ME/CFS research studies show multiple pathophysiological differences between patients and controls and a possible etiological role for infectious organisms, but the belief that ME/CFS is psychosomatic is widespread and has been specifically supported by the epidemic hysteria hypothesis for the Royal Free outbreak. Our objective was to obtain accounts from ex-Royal Free hospital staff who personally experienced the 1955 outbreak and evaluate evidence for it being an infectious illness versus epidemic hysteria.

Materials and Methods:
Statements in the newsletters of two organizations for staff who had worked at the Royal Free hospital invited anyone who had experienced the 1955 Royal Free outbreak to contact the authors. Accounts of the outbreak from telephone interviews and letters were evaluated against the “epidemic hysteria hypothesis” paper and original medical staff reports.

Results:
Twenty-seven ex-Royal Free hospital staff, including six who had developed ME, provided descriptions typical of an infectious illness affecting the lymphatic, muscular, and nervous systems, and were not consistent with epidemic hysteria.

Conclusions:
The 1955 Royal Free hospital epidemic of myalgic encephalomyelitis was an organic infectious disease, not psychogenic epidemic hysteria.
 

Pyrrhus

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Main point of this publication:
  • The 1955 Royal Free hospital epidemic of myalgic encephalomyelitis was an organic infectious disease, not psychogenic epidemic hysteria.

The author of this study, Rosemary Underhill, was actually a medical student who witnessed the Royal Free Hospital outbreak first-hand:
https://me-pedia.org/wiki/Rosemary_Underhill


She also published this 2015 paper:
Myalgic encephalomyelitis, chronic fatigue syndrome: An infectious disease
https://forums.phoenixrising.me/threads/article-me-cfs-an-infectious-disease-by-dr-rosemary-underhill.41116/


See also Byron Hyde's research on the Royal Free Hospital outbreak of 1955:
https://forums.phoenixrising.me/threads/quotes-from-the-unusual-life-of-dr-byron-hyde.79033/