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Adv Parasitol. 2011;76:129-52. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-12-385895-5.00006-2.


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Laboratório de Imunologia, Instituto do Coração, Hospital das Clínicas, Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil.


The scarcity of Trypanosoma cruzi in inflammatory lesions of chronic Chagas disease led early investigators to suggest that tissue damage had an autoimmune nature. In spite of parasite persistence in chronic Chagas disease, several reports indicate that inflammatory tissue damage may not be correlated to the local presence of T. cruzi. A significant number of reports have described autoantibodies and self-reactive T cells, often cross-reactive with T. cruzi antigens, both in patients and in animal models. Evidence for a direct pathogenetic role of autoimmunity was suggested by the development of lesions after immunization with T. cruzi antigens or passive transfer of lymphocytes from infected animals, and the amelioration of chronic myocarditis in animals made tolerant to myocardial antigens. Autoimmune and T. cruzi-specific innate or adaptative responses are not incompatible or mutually exclusive, and it is likely that a combination of both is involved in the pathogenesis of chronic Chagas disease cardiomyopathy. The association between persistent infection and autoimmune diseases-such as multiple sclerosis or diabetes mellitus-suggests that post-infectious autoimmunity may be a frequent finding. Here, we critically review evidence for autoimmune phenomena and their possible pathogenetic role in human Chagas disease and animal models, with a focus on chronic Chagas disease cardiomyopathy.

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