The role of infections in autoimmune disease

Clin Exp Immunol. 2009 Jan;155(1):1-15. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2249.2008.03834.x.


Autoimmunity occurs when the immune system recognizes and attacks host tissue. In addition to genetic factors, environmental triggers (in particular viruses, bacteria and other infectious pathogens) are thought to play a major role in the development of autoimmune diseases. In this review, we (i) describe the ways in which an infectious agent can initiate or exacerbate autoimmunity; (ii) discuss the evidence linking certain infectious agents to autoimmune diseases in humans; and (iii) describe the animal models used to study the link between infection and autoimmunity.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autoimmune Diseases / microbiology*
  • Bacterial Infections / immunology*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Humans
  • Models, Animal
  • Parasitic Diseases / immunology*
  • Virus Diseases / immunology*