Viral infection can induce the production of autoantibodies

Curr Opin Rheumatol. 2007 Nov;19(6):636-43. doi: 10.1097/BOR.0b013e3282f0ad25.


Purpose of review: To review the current literature and summarize the main principles found between viral infections and the subsequent production of autoantibodies.

Recent findings: We concentrate on recent findings involving three viral agents, one of which is Epstein-Barr virus, which has been associated with many autoimmune diseases and is classically considered to induce systemic lupus erythematosus. As we will discuss, this occurs through molecular mimicry between Epstein-Barr virus nuclear antigen 1 and lupus-specific antigens such as Ro, La or dsDNA, through induction of Toll-like receptor hypersensitivity by Epstein-Barr virus latent membrane protein 2A or by creating immortal B and T cells by loss of apoptosis. Hepatitis B virus was found to share amino acid sequences with different autoantigens. Tissue damage and the release of intracellular components is just another example of the autoantibody production caused by this virus. Cytomegalovirus has often been controversially associated with several autoimmune diseases and, although is the least understood viral infection of the three, appears to be somewhat suspicious.

Summary: Understanding the infectious origin of autoimmune diseases is important as we aim to identify high-risk patients and disrupt this process with vaccines or other medications, ultimately delaying or even preventing the evolution of autoimmune diseases.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies, Viral / immunology
  • Antigens, Viral / immunology
  • Autoantibodies / immunology*
  • Autoantigens / immunology
  • Autoimmune Diseases / virology*
  • Autoimmunity / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Molecular Mimicry / immunology*
  • Virus Diseases / immunology*


  • Antibodies, Viral
  • Antigens, Viral
  • Autoantibodies
  • Autoantigens