Bacteriophages in autoimmune disease and other inflammatory conditions

Med Hypotheses. 2004;62(4):493-8. doi: 10.1016/j.mehy.2003.12.016.


There are several autoimmune diseases and other inflammatory conditions where an infectious aetiology is suggested by the epidemiology, clinical course and pathological findings. Many candidate bacteria and viruses have been considered as potential aetiological agents but mostly without firm proof. Bacteriophages are viruses that infect bacteria and may be found wherever bacteria are located, but would not be detected unless specifically sought. They have not previously been considered to be pathogens. Bacteriophages are immunogenic and therefore could play a role in the pathogenesis of autoimmune and other inflammatory diseases by acting as antigens on epithelial surfaces, bound to antibody as immune complexes, through molecular mimicry or possibly as superantigens.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigen-Antibody Complex
  • Antigen-Presenting Cells / immunology
  • Antigens, Bacterial / immunology
  • Autoimmune Diseases / etiology*
  • Autoimmune Diseases / immunology*
  • Bacterial Infections / complications
  • Bacterial Infections / immunology
  • Bacteriophages / genetics
  • Bacteriophages / immunology*
  • Bacteriophages / pathogenicity*
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / etiology
  • Inflammation / immunology*
  • Lymphocyte Activation
  • Lysogeny
  • Models, Immunological
  • Molecular Mimicry / immunology
  • Superantigens / immunology
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology


  • Antigen-Antibody Complex
  • Antigens, Bacterial
  • Superantigens