The geoepidemiology of the antiphospholipid antibody syndrome

Autoimmun Rev. 2010 Mar;9(5):A299-304. doi: 10.1016/j.autrev.2009.11.013. Epub 2009 Nov 25.


Antiphospholipid antibodies (aPL) can be detected by functional (lupus anticoagulant) and/or by solid phase assays (anti-cardiolipin and anti-beta2 glycoprotein I). Although detectable in 1-5% of asymptomatic apparently healthy subjects, persistent aPL are significantly associated with recurrent arterial/venous thrombosis and with pregnancy morbidity. Such an association is the formal classification tool for the antiphospholipid syndrome (APS). The prevalence of the syndrome with no associated systemic connective tissue diseases (primary APS) in the general population is still a matter of debate since there are no sound epidemiological studies in the literature so far. aPL display higher prevalence in systemic lupus erythematosus and rheumatoid arthritis than in other systemic autoimmune diseases. However not all the aPL positive lupus patients display the clinical manifestations. Comparable findings may be found in the paediatric population, although anti-beta2 glycoprotein I antibodies are detected in healthy children more frequently than in adults. High prevalence of aPL has been also reported in clinical manifestations that are not formal APS classification criteria: heart valve disease, livedo reticular, nephropathy, neurological manifestations, and thrombocytopenia. Antiphospholipid antibodies can be associated with infectious processes, active vaccination, drug administration and malignancies. Their prevalence and titres are lower and the relationship with the APS clinical manifestations are less strong than in the previously mentioned conditions. Ethnicity was also reported to influence the prevalence of aPL.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antibodies, Antiphospholipid / immunology*
  • Antiphospholipid Syndrome / epidemiology*
  • Antiphospholipid Syndrome / immunology*
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Pregnancy / immunology*
  • Syndrome


  • Antibodies, Antiphospholipid