Chronic exposure to staph bacteria may be risk factor for lupus, study finds

August 8, 2012

Chronic exposure to even small amounts of staph bacteria could be a risk factor for the chronic inflammatory disease lupus, Mayo Clinic research shows. Staph, short for Staphylococcus aureus, is a germ commonly found on the skin or in the nose, sometimes causing infections. In the Mayo study, mice were exposed to low doses of a protein found in staph and developed a lupus-like disease, with kidney disease and autoantibodies like those found in the blood of lupus patients.

The findings are published online this month in The Journal of Immunology. The next step is to study to see if the staph protein in question plays a similar role in humans, says co-author Vaidehi Chowdhary, M.D., a Mayo Clinic rheumatologist.

"We think this protein could be an important clue to what may cause or exacerbate lupus in certain genetically predisposed patients," Dr. Chowdhary says. "Our hope is to confirm these findings in lupus patients and hopefully prevent flares."

Another key question is whether treating at-risk people to eradicate staph can prevent lupus from forming in the first place. Lupus occurs when the immune system attacks tissues and joints. It may affect virtually any part of the body and can be tough to diagnose because it often mimics other ailments. There is no cure, only treatment to control symptoms. Lupus is more commonly diagnosed in women, African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians and people 15 to 40.

The cause is often unknown; it appears people genetically predisposed to lupus may develop it when something in the environment triggers it, such as infections, certain drugs or even sunlight.

Physicians do not really know what causes lupus, so the discovery of the staph protein's possible role is exciting, Dr. Chowdhary says.

In the mice studied, a staph protein known as a staphylococcal enterotoxin B, or SEB, activated autoreactive T and B lymphocytes, a type of , leading to an inflammatory illness mirroring lupus. Research on people has shown that carrying is linked to autoimmune diseases such as psoriasis, Kawasaki disease and graulomatosis with polyangiitis.

Explore further: Continued treatment for lupus may boost survival of those patients with end-stage kidney disease

Related Stories

Study: Epstein Barr virus protects against autoimmune disease

April 2, 2012

To the surprise of investigating researchers, an animal model of Epstein Barr virus protected lupus-prone mice against development of the autoimmune disease. Earlier work had suggested that EBV might promote the development ...

Recommended for you

Nature study suggests new therapy for Gaucher disease

February 22, 2017

Scientists propose in Nature blocking a molecule that drives inflammation and organ damage in Gaucher and maybe other lysosomal storage diseases as a possible treatment with fewer risks and lower costs than current therapies.

T cells support long-lived antibody-producing cells

February 21, 2017

If you've ever wondered how a vaccine given decades ago can still protect against infection, you have your plasma cells to thank. Plasma cells are long-lived B cells that reside in the bone marrow and churn out antibodies ...

Understanding how HIV evades the immune system

February 21, 2017

Monash University (Australia) and Cardiff University (UK) researchers have come a step further in understanding how the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) evades the immune system.

Yeast found in babies' guts increases risk of asthma

February 17, 2017

University of British Columbia microbiologists have found a yeast in the gut of new babies in Ecuador that appears to be a strong predictor that they will develop asthma in childhood. The new research furthers our understanding ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.