Viral Infections Lead To Autoimmune Diseases In Mice, Study Suggests

Apr, 2022 - By SMI

Viral Infections Lead To Autoimmune Diseases In Mice, Study Suggests

Researchers discovered a mechanism using which a normal childhood virus can aid in the development of autoimmune diseases in the future

The link between autoimmune disease and infections with herpesviruses including roseoloviruses has been studied before. However, the mechanism behind this was not discovered due to ubiquitous nature of infection and autoimmunity development after long time of severe infection. Now researchers at Washington University in St. Louis discovered a mechanism using which a common virus plays a role in autoimmune disease in the future.

Many people are infected by roseolovirus, which is a type of herpesvirus, in the beginning of the life. It is found that the virus is mild in the beginning as it causes only mild illness and clears up in few days, however, the virus continues to be there for a long time of life being dormant. It normally does not cause any problems after the first infection, yet according to the team, the virus could be playing a role in autoimmune diseases. Thus, in this new study, the scientists studied the link and found that the virus could infect the thymus, which is the organ where T cells mature in order for them to recognize foreign antigens. However, thymus can extract T cells that can attack own cells of the body and the virus can disrupt this process. The researchers found this mechanism in experiments conducted on mice.

The team infected newborn animals with a roseolovirus and after 12 weeks the team found that all the mice developed autoimmune gastritis, which is a stomach inflammation. Moreover, the team also found that the mice developed antibodies against proteins on stomach cells as well as other proteins in the body, out of which some could be found in other autoimmune diseases. As the study was conducted on mice with a mouse virus, the team indicates that these results may not be carried out in humans. However, the study provides important insights in the link.

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