For Debate Parasitic Infection and Autoimmunity Academic Article uri icon


  • The studies summarized in this paper indicate that parasitic infections can serve as a trigger factor of autoimmune reactivity by several mechanisms. The relationship between parasites and autoimmunity could be manifested by the presence of autoantibodies or T-cells with autoreactivity. In spite of the evidence that has accumulated, the specific association between infection and autoimmunity is still obscure. The reasons for tissue damage in parasitic diseases are controversial. Some believe it is the result of pathogenic autoantibodies or autoreactive T-cells. Others argue against the causative role of autoimmunity in the formation of tissue lesions. The parasite itself could be the cause of tissue destruction, thus releasing high amounts of self antigens which might stimulate the autoreactivity. There is now little doubt that some degree parasite/host cross-reactivity occurs, and definition of cross-reacting antigens and epitopes is now taking place. It seems likely that a combination of events could result in cross-reactivity including: parasites themselves have cross reactive molecules and altered self antigens by adsorbing of parasite material to surrounding host cells. The mechanisms involved in parasites autoimmunity are complex and numerous, requiring a rigorous experimental approach to rationalize each step and determine its clinical importance. The developed methods in immunochemistry, monoclonal antibodies and hybridoma technology, and recombinant DNA research not only facilitate this kind of approach but also allow optimism for a successful outcome.

publication date

  • February 1, 1991