, Volume 56, Issue 2-3, pp 220-240
Date: 17 Apr 2013

Tracing environmental markers of autoimmunity: introducing the infectome

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Abstract

We recently introduced the concept of the infectome as a means of studying all infectious factors which contribute to the development of autoimmune disease. It forms the infectious part of the exposome, which collates all environmental factors contributing to the development of disease and studies the sum total of burden which leads to the loss of adaptive mechanisms in the body. These studies complement genome-wide association studies, which establish the genetic predisposition to disease. The infectome is a component which spans the whole life and may begin at the earliest stages right up to the time when the first symptoms manifest, and may thus contribute to the understanding of the pathogenesis of autoimmunity at the prodromal/asymptomatic stages. We provide practical examples and research tools as to how we can investigate disease-specific infectomes, using laboratory approaches employed from projects studying the “immunome” and “microbiome”. It is envisioned that an understanding of the infectome and the environmental factors that affect it will allow for earlier patient-specific intervention by clinicians, through the possible treatment of infectious agents as well as other compounding factors, and hence slowing or preventing disease development.