Author(s): Guilherme L, Khler KF, Kalil J
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Abstract Rheumatic fever (RF) is an autoimmune disease caused by the Gram-positive bacteria Streptococcus pyogenes following an untreated throat infection in susceptible children. Rheumatic heart disease (RHD), the most serious complication, occurs in 30-45\% of RF patients and leads to chronic valvular lesions. Here, we focus on the genes that confer susceptibility for developing this disease. Molecular mimicry mediates the cross-reactions between streptococcal antigens and human proteins. Several autoantigens have been identified, including cardiac myosin epitopes, vimentin, and other intracellular proteins. In heart tissue, antigen-driven oligoclonal T cell expansions probably cause the rheumatic heart lesions. These cells are CD4+ and produce inflammatory cytokines (TNF alpha and IFN gamma). IL-4+ cells are found in the myocardium; however, these cells are very scarce in the valve lesions of RHD patients. IL-4 is a Th2-type cytokine and plays a regulatory role in the inflammatory response mediated by Th1 cytokines. Our findings indicate that the Th1/Th2 cytokine balance has a role in healing myocarditis while the low numbers of IL-4-producing cells in the valves probably induced the progressive and permanent valve damage.
This article was published in Adv Clin Chem
and referenced in Rheumatology: Current Research