Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) is the main cause of chronic gastritis and a major risk factor for gastric cancer. This pathogen has also been considered a potential trigger of gastric autoimmunity, and in particular of autoimmune gastritis. However, a considerable number of reports have attempted to link H. pylori infection with the development of extra-gastrointestinal autoimmune disorders, affecting organs not immediately relevant to the stomach. This review discusses the current evidence in support or against the role of H. pylori as a potential trigger of autoimmune rheumatic and skin diseases, as well as organ specific autoimmune diseases. We discuss epidemiological, serological, immunological and experimental evidence associating this pathogen with autoimmune diseases. Although over one hundred autoimmune diseases have been investigated in relation to H. pylori, we discuss a select number of papers with a larger literature base, and include Sjögrens syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, vasculitides, autoimmune skin conditions, idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura, autoimmune thyroid disease, multiple sclerosis, neuromyelitis optica and autoimmune liver diseases. Specific mention is given to those studies reporting an association of anti-H. pylori antibodies with the presence of autoimmune disease-specific clinical parameters, as well as those failing to find such associations. We also provide helpful hints for future research.
Keywords: Autoimmunity; Gastritis; Helicobacter pylori; Infection; Mimicry; Rheumatology.