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

The role of infections in autoimmune disease.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology-Immunology and Interdepartmental Immunobiology Center, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, IL 60611, USA.


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.

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