How a common viral infection can lead to autoimmunity

Researchers in Dr. Leona Gilbert's research group at the University of Jyväskylä have proposed a novel mechanism for how a common viral infection could lead to an autoimmune disease. Dr. Gilbert's team demonstrated for the first time how viral components triggered cellular and ultimately tissue damage in mice, thus, providing an answer to a missing link between an infection and autoimmunity.

Recently, some common bacteria and viruses have been linked to autoimmune diseases but the exact mechanisms of how the pathogens cause these diseases have been a mystery.

Human parvovirus B19 has also been linked autoimmune diseases such as systemic lupus erythematosus and rheumatoid arthritis. Human parvovirus B19 is a very common virus that can be symptomless or cause flu-like symptoms.

"Human parvovirus B19 NS1 protein is known to cause cell death. Normally, cell death occurs even in healthy cells as a way of renewing old or damaged cells. However, during a microbial infection the pathogen can cause an excessive amount of cell death, thus, burdening the immune system," says Dr. Leona Gilbert.

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