, Volume 14, Issue 4, pp 451-457

Antibodies to human immunodeficiency virus (HIV-1) in autoimmune diseases: Primary Sjögren's syndrome, systemic lupus erythematosus, rheumatoid arthritis and autoimmune thyroid diseases

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The aetiology of autoimmune diseases remains unknown. The relationship between virus, and more recently retrovirus, has been suggested with this group of diseases. Immunoblotting is a useful method for determining the presence of proteins coded by different retrovirus genes. Since the prevalence of these types of proteins in patients with primary Sjögren's syndrome (SS), systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and autoimmune thyroid diseases has not been fully established, the aim of this work was to determine the prevalence of antibodies to immunodeficiency human virus type 1 (HIV-1) proteins in these diseases and their possible relationship with the presence of anti-nuclear, anti-DNA, anti-SSA (Ro) and anti-SSB (La) autoantibodies. Antibodies to human immunodeficiency virus (HIV-1) were studied in a group of 341 patients with autoimmune diseases (77 SS, 98 SLE, 75 RA, 91 autoimmune thyroid diseases) and 126 blood donors as a control group. A Western blot was used to detect antibodies to HIV-1, and a double polymerase chain reaction (PCR) using nested primers in the gag and pol gene of HIV-1. Antinuclear antibodies, anti-DNA, anti-SSA (Ro) and anti-SSB (La) were determined by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays.

At least one band was shown on immunoblotting in 26% of patients with autoimmune diseases and 35% of controls. The presence of antibodies to p55 or p68 proteins in patients with SS or SLE proved to be the only statistically significant difference between the other autoimmune diseases studied and the control group. These antibodies were not associated with autoantibodies, ANA, DNA, SSA (Ro) or SSB (La). Initially, PCR assay was performed to rule out the presence of HIV-1 virus; results were always negative, as expected. Our results suggest that the presence of p55 and p68 in Western blot for HIV-1 helps differentiate patients with SS or SLE, from those with RA or autoimmune thyroid disease and from a control group.