Autoimmune manifestations of infections

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Abstract

Purpose of review

To provide an update about the interactions between infections and autoimmune diseases (AIDs), from the molecular perspective to the clinical spectrum and the differentiation between infection and disease activity.

Recent findings

Any kind of infection may modify the innate and adaptive immune response through the following mechanisms: molecular mimicry, superantigens, epitope spreading and B-cell activation. The consequence is the overproduction of antibodies shared with those found in AIDs. Viral infections, especially HIV and hepatitis C virus, can stimulate the production of antiphospholipid antibodies and confer an increased risk to develop antiphospholipid syndrome.

Summary

The identification of risk factors to develop infections in patients with AIDs is remarkable to prevent them. These factors are the use of steroids and immunosuppressants, the involvement of a major organ (lungs, brain and kidney) and severe activity. Biomarkers to differentiate infection from disease activity are scarce, but the combination of procalcitonine and C-reactive protein seems to have higher specificity and sensibility to identify infections in patients with AIDs. Finally, the clinical judgment is the hallmark to differentiate between infections and disease activity.

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