November 2, 2004

Viruses May Trigger Autoimmune Diseases

Scientists found mice predisposed to diabetes were more likely to develop the disease if exposed to a virus. Diabetes, lupus, multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis are examples of diseases where the body's immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue.

Researchers believe the body may act correctly to repel an invading virus but then extend its attack to molecules similar to those in the virus. Normal cells containing those molecules may then be damaged.

The finding could help in the future development of therapies for the treatment or prevention of diabetes and other autoimmune illnesses.

By building on this research, we may one day be able to advise people genetically predisposed to multiple sclerosis, for instance, to avoid certain viruses or bacteria or to be vaccinated against them in order to prevent actual development of autoimmune disease, wrote Mitchell Kronenberg, president and scientific director of San Diego's La Jolla Institute for Allergy & Immunology, where the research took place.

A report on the study appeared in this week's Journal of Clinical Investigation.

-----

On the Net:

La Jolla Institute for Allergy & Immunology