Background: Viral and bacterial antigens have been suspected to be able to mimic the antigenic profile of the thyroid cell membrane and to play an important role in the onset of the autoimmune diseases, such as Graves' disease and Hashimoto thyroiditis. The Helicobacter pylori infection is worldwide diffused and is present in the developed countries up to 50% of the population. The presence of the cytotoxin-associated gene A antigens identifies the most virulent strains of the bacterium. Previous studies have demonstrated the possible correlation between the Helicobacter pylori and Hashimoto's thyroiditis but these results are controversial.
Aims: We studied the prevalence rate of this bacterium in the Graves' disease and two selected subgroups such as the hyperthyroid patients, at the first time of diagnosis, and the euthyroid methimazole-treated patients.
Materials and methods: We analyzed Helicobacter pylori in fresh stool samples with an enzyme immunoassay method and the presence of cytotoxin-associated gene A antigens with a serological test.
Results: Our results show that a significative increased rate of prevalence is present in Graves' patients, when the disease is ongoing, with an overall prevalence of the strains expressing the cytotoxin-associated gene A antigens compared to the control group.
Conclusions: The association between the Helicobacter pylori and Graves' disease suggests a possible role of this bacterium in the onset and/or the maintenance of the disease.
© 2010 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.