Predicting and preventing autoimmunity, myth or reality?

Michal Harel, Yehuda Shoenfeld*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Many autoimmune diseases are chronic conditions that progress over the course of years, and are characterized by the presence of autoantibodies that precede the overt disease by months or years. As examples, the presence of two islet cell antibodies (ICA) are associated with a 50% risk of developing diabetes mellitus in 5 years, anticyclic citrullinated (anti-CCP) antibodies are found in the sera of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients a median of 4.5 years before the overt disease, and in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), patients accrue antibodies throughout a foreseen course during the 3-4 years prior to the clinical symptoms. This ability to predict autoimmune diseases, or rather their clinical manifestations, leads to the prospect of screening healthy individuals for autoantibodies. The importance of such a notion lies not only in the ability to prevent life-threatening manifestations, such as Addisonian's crisis and thyroid storm, but also in the ability to treat and even prevent overt autoimmune diseases. Among such documented treatment modalities are administration of aspirin in antiphospholipid syndrome, ursodeoxycholic acid in primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC), vitamin D in SLE and autoimmune thyroid diseases (AITD), and more. Although additional studies are still needed to fully assess these notions, as well as the appropriate screening strategies to apply them, one cannot ignore the prospect of predicting and preventing autoimmunity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)322-345
Number of pages24
JournalAnnals of the New York Academy of Sciences
StatePublished - Jun 2006


  • Addison's
  • Antiphospholipid syndrome
  • Autoantibodies
  • Autoimmune hepatitis
  • Crohn's
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Miscarriages
  • Pemphigus
  • Primary biliary cirrhosis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus
  • Thyroid
  • Ulcerative colitis


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