The illness, believed to affect 100,000 in the United Kingdom, has reached epidemic proportions, Hugh Faulkner, director of the charity set up to raise the money, said. He stressed that the Peristent Virus Disease Research Foundation is purely for research, and not a patient-based organisation.
He said the disease was responsible for large numbers of people overwhelmed by fatigue, joint and muscle pain and loss of short-term memory and of concentration.
The illness is also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis, chronic fatigue syndrome and post-viral fatigue syndrome. The researchers say that in two-thirds of cases the condition is triggered by an enterovirus, which takes hold in the gut. In sufferers, the effects of this viral infection are long-lasting - hence the charity's name.
James Mowbray, Professor of Immunopathology at St Mary's Hospital Medical School, London, and a member of the charity's research committee, said many illnesses caused fatigue syndromes that could last for days, weeks, months or years after the initial infection or acute illness. This included tuberculosis, polio, cancer, Aids-related diseases and hepatitis.
Professor Mowbray said the researchers were able to show that the effect of the virus on cells and muscle could change brain chemistry, producing the neurological symptoms of the fatigue syndrome.
The group of diseases that had the fatigue syndrome were linked with the enteroviruses in a majority of cases, he said.