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Autoimmunity. 1995;20(2):135-42.

Evidence for a retroviral trigger in Graves' disease.

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Department of Medicine, Tulane University Medical Center School of Medicine, New Orleans, Louisiana 70112-2699, USA.


An apparently high frequency of Graves' disease encountered in New Orleans, Louisiana, prompted an investigation for a possible infectious agent that might be triggering the disease in genetically susceptible individuals. We studied 40 patients with Graves' disease, and compared them to the following groups of controls: age and gender matched healthy subjects; patients with multinodular goiter (non-autoimmune thyroid controls); patients with chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis (autoimmune thyroid disease controls) and additional organ or tissue specific autoimmune controls exclusive of thyroid autoimmunity, including patients with Type I diabetes and other endocrine autoimmune complex disorders. Serum antibodies against a prototypic strain of a human intracisternal A-type retroviral particle type 1 (HIAP-1) were detected by a sensitive and specific immunoblotting assay. In 87.5% (35/40) of the Graves' disease patients there was a positive reaction against several HIAP-1-associated proteins, predominantly 97 Kd and 80 Kd, with only 5 showing no reactivity to any. In contrast, 2% (2/105) of sera from normal controls showed positive reactivity. Furthermore, only 10% (1/10) of sera from multinodular goiter control patients and 10% (1/10) of Hashimoto's patients showed reactivity (p < 0.0005). Sera from 3 of 20 (15%) of Type I diabetic patients none of whom had Graves' disease, showed reactivity but there was no reactivity in 9 other patients with one or more of the endocrine autoimmune complex disorders, including Addison's disease, vitiligo, myasthenia gravis and pernicious anemia. In addition we studied two individuals with Graves' disease from each of two families residing outside Louisiana, all of whom were positive for these antibodies.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS).

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