Nailing down the cause—or, more likely, causes—of the illness has proved exceptionally difficult, since patients’ symptoms vary tremendously, reports NPR.

The study’s lead investigator is neuroimmunologist Dr. Avindra Nath, chief of the Section of Infections of the Nervous System and clinical director of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Prior to joining NIH in 2011, Nath ran a multiple sclerosis clinic, where he evaluated many ME/CFS patients to rule out MS, which can cause similar symptoms. That’s where his interest in ME/CFS began, he says.

“I became comfortable that, ‘Yes, they do have a real story that’s very convincing’ … but [when you run the usual tests] you don’t find anything. That made me feel that it’s probably worth pursuing further,” he says. “NIH is probably the best place to be able to do that because we have a lot of tools available to study a small population in great depth.”