Viral infection in induction of Hashimoto's thyroiditis: a key player or just a bystander?

Curr Opin Endocrinol Diabetes Obes. 2010 Oct;17(5):418-24. doi: 10.1097/MED.0b013e32833cf518.


Purpose of review: Viral infection activates both the innate and adaptive immunity and is implicated as a trigger of autoimmune diseases including Hashimoto's thyroiditis. This review summarizes our knowledge respecting the role of viral infection in the cause of Hashimoto's thyroiditis.

Recent findings: Components of several viruses such as hepatitis C virus, human parvovirus B19, coxsackie virus and herpes virus are detected in the thyroid of Hashimoto's thyroiditis patients. Bystander activation of autoreactive T cells may be involved in triggering intrathyroidal inflammation. Signaling molecules associated with antiviral responses including Toll-like receptors may participate in Hashimoto's thyroiditis induction. However, studies have provided insufficient direct evidence for the viral hypothesis in Hashimoto's thyroiditis.

Summary: Despite interesting circumstantial evidence, whether viral infection is responsible for Hashimoto's thyroiditis remains unclear. Studies addressing this issue are required to substantiate a contribution from viral infection to Hashimoto's thyroiditis and, consequently, the prospect for developing preventive modalities for Hashimoto's thyroiditis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Female
  • Hashimoto Disease / virology*
  • Humans
  • Hygiene
  • Intestines / immunology
  • Intestines / microbiology
  • Mice
  • Rats
  • Receptors, IgG / immunology
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • T-Lymphocytes / virology
  • Thyroid Gland / immunology
  • Thyroid Gland / virology*
  • Toll-Like Receptors / immunology
  • Virus Diseases / complications*
  • Viruses / immunology
  • Viruses / isolation & purification*


  • Receptors, IgG
  • Toll-Like Receptors