Evaluation of infectious etiology in subacute thyroiditis-lack of association with coxsackievirus infection

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The etiology of subacute granulomatous thyroiditis (SAT) is obscure, although it is postulated to be associated with viral infections and genetic factors. In the present study, the possibility of an infectious etiology was prospectively studied in 27 consecutive patients with SAT. Special emphasis was put on the role of enteroviruses. Coupled sera (interval one month) were taken from all patients and single sera from 29 control subjects for virus antibody determinations. Stool samples were collected for virus isolation and fine-needle aspiration samples from thyroid gland for the detection of enterovirus RNA using RT-PCR were taken from SAT patients. Enteroviral antibodies were tested using three different methods: indirect EIA, heavy chain capture RIA, and standard complement fixation (CF) test. Antibodies against other common viral pathogens, including enteroviruses, were screened using the CF test and those against Mycoplasma pneumoniae andChlamydia pneumoniae using EIA and microimmunofluorescence techniques, respectively. Common respiratory viruses were also screened from nasopharyngeal suction samples by antigen detection EIA. Based on serological findings, one patient had acute Cytomegalovirus infection. All other patients were negative in antibody tests, virus isolation, RT-PCR, and antigen detection. Enterovirus RNA was not detected by PCR in the thyroid tissue in any of the fine-needle aspiration samples. There was no evidence of recent enteroviral infections in SAT patients. The results suggest that SAT is not usually associated with acute infections. No evidence was obtained to support the proposed role of enteroviruses as an important etiologic agent of SAT.

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