Autoimmune diseases are complex conditions characterised by the immune system attacking the body's own tissues.
Research suggests that viral infections, such as Human Herpesvirus 6 (HHV-6), may play a role in triggering or exacerbating these conditions.
Here, we explore the intriguing relationship between HHV-6 and autoimmune diseases, shedding light on the potential link and its implications.
Understanding HHV-6: HHV-6 is a common human herpesvirus that infects most individuals during childhood.
There are two variants: HHV-6A and HHV-6B. Primary infection often occurs early in life, and the virus remains latent (inactive) in the body. However, certain circumstances can lead to viral reactivation, causing potential health consequences.
The Link Between HHV-6 and Autoimmune Diseases:
Molecular Mimicry: HHV-6 has been found to share molecular similarities with human proteins and cellular structures. This resemblance can trigger an immune response that may mistakenly target both the virus and the body's own tissues, leading to autoimmune reactions
Immune Dysregulation: HHV-6 can disrupt immune system balance and modulate immune responses. Viral replication and viral proteins can directly interact with immune cells, triggering inflammation and potentially contributing to the development or progression of autoimmune diseases.
Activation of Autoimmunity: HHV-6 has been implicated in various autoimmune conditions, including multiple sclerosis (MS), systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), Sjögren's syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and autoimmune thyroid diseases. In some cases, HHV-6 infection or reactivation has been detected in affected tissues or associated with disease flares.
Altered Immune Tolerance: HHV-6 can affect immune tolerance mechanisms, potentially leading to the loss of self-tolerance and the development of autoimmune responses.
Evidence suggests a potential link between HHV-6 infection/reactivation and the development or exacerbation of autoimmune conditions.
The molecular mimicry, immune dysregulation, and activation of autoimmunity associated with HHV-6 infections present a fascinating area of research.