Bacterial triggers and autoimmune rheumatic diseases

Hermann J. Girschick, Luiza Guilherme, Robert D. Inman, Kirsten Latsch, Markus Rihl, Yaniv Sherer, Yehuda Shoenfeld, Henning Zeidler, Silvia Arienti, Andrea Doria*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Autoimmune rheumatic diseases are generally considered as a multifactorial aetiology, mainly genetic susceptibility combined with environmental triggers of which bacteria are considered one of the most prominent. Among the rheumatic diseases where bacterial agents are more clearly involved as triggers are: reactive arthritis (ReA), rheumatic fever (RF) and Lyme disease. The role of bacterial infections in inducing other seronegative spondyloarthritis and antiphospholipid antibody syndrome has been hypothesized but is still not proven. The classic form of ReA is associated with the presence of HLA-B27 and is triggered by the urethritis or enteritis causing pathogens Chlamydia trachomatis and the enterobacteria Salmonella, Shigella, and Yersinia, respectively. But several other pathogens such as Brucella, Leptospira, Mycobacteria, Neisseria, Staphylococcus and Streptococcus have also been reported to cause ReA. RF is due to an autoimmune reaction triggered by an untreated throat infection by Streptococcus pyogenes in susceptible individuals. Carditis is the most serious manifestation of RF and HLA-DR7 is predominantly observed in the development of valvular lesions. Lyme disease is a tick-transmitted disease caused by the spirochete Borrelia burgdorferi. Knowledge is limited about how this spirochete interacts with human tissues and cells. Some data report that Borrelia burgdorferi can manipulate resident cells towards a pro- but also anti-in-flammatory reaction and persist over a long period of time inside the human body or even inside human cells.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S12-S17
JournalClinical and Experimental Rheumatology
Issue number1 SUPPL. 48
StatePublished - 2008


  • Ankylosing spondylitis
  • Antiphospholipid antibodies
  • Antiphospholipid syndrome
  • Infectious diseases
  • Lyme disease
  • Reactive arthritis
  • Rheumatic fever
  • Rheumatic heart disease
  • Spondyloarthritis


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