Infections and SLE

Autoimmunity. 2005 Nov;38(7):473-85. doi: 10.1080/08916930500285352.


Viral and bacterial infections may serve as an environmental trigger for the development or exacerbation of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) in the genetically predetermined individual. In addition, SLE patients are more prone to develop common (pneumonia, urinary tract infection, cellulitis, sepsis), chronic (tuberculosis), and opportunistic infections possibly due to inherit genetic and immunologic defects (complement deficiencies, mannose-binding lectin [MBL] polymorphisms, elevated Fcgamma III and GM-CSF levels, osteopontion polymorphism), but also due to the broad spectrum immunosuppressive agents that are part of therapy for severe manifestations of the disease. Hence, SLE patients are considered a high-risk population, where identification and treatment of chronic infections such as tuberculosis, hepatitis B or human immunodeficiency virus, are important prior to the institution of immunosuppression so as to prevent reactivation or exacerbation of the infection. Infections in SLE patients remain a source of morbidity and mortality. A caveat often encountered is to distinguish between a lupus flare and an acute infection; in such cases parameters including elevated CRP (and adhesion molecules) may aid in the diagnosis of infection. Recent research has provided convincing evidence that EBV infection may play a major role not only in molecular mimicry but also in aberrations of B cells and apoptosis leading to a state of perpetual heightened immune response in SLE.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Communicable Diseases / immunology*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Humans
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / immunology*