Autoantibodies in silicosis patients and in silica-exposed individuals


The aim of this study was to evaluate the prevalence of autoantibodies in silica-exposed patients with and without silicosis and without any known rheumatic disease. We studied 61 males exposed to silica for a mean time of 12.2 ± 10.2 years of exposure. A total of 72.1% (44/61) of them presented with pulmonary silicosis. As control group we included 62 healthy males. In all samples we screened for rheumatoid factor (latex agglutination), antinuclear antibodies (indirect immunofluorescence), anti Scl-70 (ELISA) and ANCA (indirect immunofluorescence technique). One patient (1.6%) of the silica group had weakly positive ANA (titer 1:80, centromeric pattern); one (1.6%) had atypical ANCA and seven patients (11.4%) presented positive rheumatoid factor (values range from 8 to 32 UI/ml). One control patient had a positive RF and none of them had positive ANA or ANCA. All patients and controls were negative for anti-Scl-70. The finding of positive RF was higher in the silica-exposed patients (p = 0.032; Fisher). All patients with positive RF had pulmonary silicosis. In the silica-exposed group we could not find a relationship between the presence of RF and age (p = 0.21; Mann–Whitney), smoking habits (p = 0.25; Fisher) but a positive relationship was found with exposure time to silica dust (p = 0.005; Mann–Whitney). We conclude that there was 11.4% prevalence of low titer RF in the silica-exposed patients without known rheumatic disease. RF was more common in patients with longer exposure to silica dust and appeared only in those with silicosis. The presence of ANA, Scl-70 and ANCA was the same as in the control population.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.


  1. 1.

    De-Vuyst P, Camus P (2000) The past and present of pneumoconiosis. Curr Opin Pulm Med 6:151–156. doi:10.1097/00063198-200003000-00012

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  2. 2.

    Pernis B (2005) Silica and the immune system. Acta Biomed 76(S2):38–44

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  3. 3.

    Costallat LT, Capitani EN, Zambon L (2002) Pulmonary silicosis and systemic lupus erythematosus in men: a report in two cases. Joint Bone Spine 69:68–71. doi:10.1016/S1297-319X(01)00344-X

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  4. 4.

    Wilke RA, Salisbury S, Abdel-Rahman E, Brazy PC (1996) Lupus-like autoimmune disease associated with silicosis. Nephrol Dial Transplant 11:1835–1838

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  5. 5.

    Hogan S, Satterly K, Dooley MA, Nachman PH, Jennete JC, Falk RJ (2001) Silica exposure in anti-neutrophil cytoplasmic autoantibody associated glomerulonephritis and lupus nephritis. J Am Soc Nephrol 12:134–142

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  6. 6.

    Arnalich F, Lahoz C, Picazo ML et al (1989) Polyarteritis nodosa and necrotizing glomerulonephritis associated with long standing silicosis. Nephron 51:544–547

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  7. 7.

    Brown H, Lagonr JJ, Brinton LA (1998) Silicone breast implants and autoimmune disease. J Am Med Womens Assoc 53:21–24

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  8. 8.

    Iannelo S, Belfiore F (1998) Silicone breast prosthesis and rheumatoid arthritis: a new systemic disease: siliconosis. A case report and critical review of the literature. Minerva Med 89:117–130

    Google Scholar 

  9. 9.

    Haustein U-F, Ziegler V, Hermann K, Mehlhorn J, Schmidt C (1990) Silica induced scleroderma. J Am Acad Dermatol 22:444–448

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  10. 10.

    Corbett EL, Mozzato-Chamay N, Butterworth AE et al (2002) Polymorphism in the tumor necrosis factor-α gene promoter may predispose to severe silicosis in black South African miners. Am J Respir Crit Care Med 165:690–693

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  11. 11.

    Sluis-Cremer GK, Hessel PA, Hnizdfo E, Churchill AR (1986) Relationship between silicosis and rheumatoid arthritis. Thorax 41(8):596–601

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  12. 12.

    Gregorini G, Tira P, Rizza J F et al (1997) Anca associated diseases and silica exposure. Clin Rev Allergy Immunol 15:21–40. doi:10.1007/BF02828275

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  13. 13.

    Hogan Sl, Cooper GS, Savitz DA et al (2007) Association of silica exposure with antineutrophil cytoplasmic autoantibody small vessel vasculitis: a population based, case control study. Clin J Am Soc Nephrol 2:290–299. doi:10.2215/CJN.03501006

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  14. 14.

    Rustin MHA, Bull HA, Ziegler V et al (1990) Silica associated systemic sclerosis is clinically, serological and immunologically indistinguishable from idiopathic systemic sclerosis. Br J Dermatol 123:725–734. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2133.1990.tb04189.x

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  15. 15.

    Haustein U-F, Ziegler V, Zchunke E (1985) Progressive systemic sclerosis with silicosis in the German Democratic Republic. In: Black CM, Myers AR et al (eds) Systemic sclerosis. Gower, New York, pp 138–141

    Google Scholar 

  16. 16.

    Diot E, Lesire V, Guilmot JL et al (2002) Systemic sclerosis and occupational risk factors: a case control study. Occup Environ Med 59:545–549. doi:10.1136/oem.59.8.545

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  17. 17.

    Tervaert JWC, Stegeman CA, Kallenberg CGM (1998) Silicone exposure and vasculitis. Curr Opin Rheumatol 10:12–17. doi:10.1097/00002281-199801000-00003

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  18. 18.

    Pfau JC, Brown JM, Holian A (2004) Silica exposed mice generate autoantibodies to apoptotic cells. Toxicology 195:167–176. doi:10.1016/j.tox.2003.09.011

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  19. 19.

    Ostsuki T, Miura Y, Nishimura Y, Hyodoh F, Takata A, Katsuyama H et al (2006) Alterations of Fas and Fas related molecules in patients with silicosis. Exp Biol Med 231:522–533

    Google Scholar 

  20. 20.

    Ostsuki T, Maeda M, Murakami S, Hayashi H, Miura Y, Kusaka M et al (2007) Immunological effects of silica and asbestos. Cell Mol Immunol 4:261–268

    Google Scholar 

  21. 21.

    Wu P, Miura Y, Hyodoh F, Nishimura Y, Hatayama T, Hatada S et al (2006) Reduced function of CD4+ 25+ regulatory T cell fraction in silicosis patients. Int J Immunopathol Pharmacol 19:357–368

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  22. 22.

    Yucesoy B, Vallyathan V, Landsittel DP, Simeonova P, Luster MI (2002) Cytokine polymorphisms in silicosis and other pneumoconioses. Mol Cell Biochem 234(235):219–224. doi:10.1023/A:1015987007360

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  23. 23.

    Lee YH, Ji JD, Song GG (2007) Tumor necrosis factor-α promoter -308 A/G polymorphism and rheumatoid arthritis susceptibility: a metaanalysis. J Rheumatol 34:43–49

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  24. 24.

    Gomez LM, Ruiz-Narváez EA, Pineda-Tamayo R, Rojas-Villarraga A, Anaya JM (2007) TNF microsatellites polymorphism is associated with rheumatoid arthritis. Confirming evidence in north western Colombians. Clin Exp Rheumatol 25:443–448

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  25. 25.

    Waldenburger JM, Firestein GS (2007) Rheumatoid arthritis: epidemiology, pathology and pathogenesis. In: Klippel JH, Stone JH, Crofford LJ, White PH (eds) Primer on rheumatic diseases. Springer, New York, pp 122–148

    Google Scholar 

  26. 26.

    Korpiläde T, Heliövaara M, Knekt P, Marniemi J, Aromaa A, Aho A (2004) Smoking history and serum cotinine and thiocyanate concentrations as determinants of rheumatoid factor in nonrheumatoid subjects. Rheumatism 43:1424–1428. doi:10.1093/rheumatology/keh365

    Google Scholar 

  27. 27.

    Hessel PA, Gamble JF, Nicolish M (2003) Relationship between silicosis and smoking. Scand J Work Environ Health 29:329–336

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  28. 28.

    Cherry MN, Burgess GL, Turner S, Mcdonald JC (1998) Crystalline silica and risk of lung cancer in potteries. Occup Environ Med 55:779–785

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  29. 29.

    Xang X, Yano E (1999) Pulmonary dysfunction in silica exposed workers. A relationship to radiographic signs of silicosis and emphysema. Am J Ind Med 36:299–306. doi:10.1002/(SICI)1097-0274(199908)36:2<299:AID-AJIM9>3.0.CO;2-W

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. 30.

    Hessel PA, Sluis Cremmer GK, Lee LS (1991) Distribution of silicotic collagenization in relation to smoking habits. Am Rev Respir Dis 144:297–301

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  31. 31.

    Beaudrenil S, Lasfargues G, Lauériere L, El Ghoul Z, Fourquest F, Longuet C et al (2005) Occupational exposure in ANCA positive patients: a case control study. Kidney Int 67:1961–1966. doi:10.1111/j.1523-1755.2005.00295.x

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. 32.

    Frank K-H, Füssel M, Conrad K, Rihs HP, Koch R, Gebhardt B, Mehlhorn J (1998) Different distribution of HLA class II and TNF factor alleles (TNF-308.2, YNFa2 microsatellite) in antitopoisomerase I responders among scleroderma patients with and without exposure to quartz/metal dust. Arthritis Rheum 41:1306–1311. doi:10.1002/1529-0131(199807)41:7<1306:AID-ART22>3.0.CO;2-V

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  33. 33.

    Ueki A, Isozaki Y, Tomokuni A, Tanaka S, Otsuki T, Kishimoto T et al (2001) Autoantibodies detectable in the sera of silicosis patients. The relationship between the anti-topoisomerase I antibody response and HLA-DQB1*0402 allele in Japanese silicosis patients. Sci Total Environ 270:141–148. doi:10.1016/S0048-9697(00)00792-0

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

Download references


Ethical Committee Approval: 2466/05 (Ethical committee from Beneficent Evangelic Society from Curitiba).

Conflict of interest statement


Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Thelma L. Skare.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Zaghi, G., Koga, F., Nisihara, R.M. et al. Autoantibodies in silicosis patients and in silica-exposed individuals. Rheumatol Int 30, 1071–1075 (2010).

Download citation


  • Autoantibodies
  • Silicosis
  • Rheumatoid factor
  • Antinuclear antibody
  • Anti neutrophil cytoplasmatic antibody
  • Anti Scl-70