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Why Women are More Likely Than Men to Develop Autoimmune Diseases

Women are three times more likely than men to develop lupus, multiple sclerosis, or rheumatoid arthritis, currently thought to be autoimmune diseases that are caused by a person's immunity attacking her own body, instead of doing its job of killing germs. This increased risk may be caused in some way by the process of pregnancy, or it may be due to the fact that women are twice as likely as men to become infected with a sexually transmitted disease and 10 times more likely to become infected with HIV. See my report on mycoplasma, chlamydia and ureaplasma.

Several papers have shown that multiple sclerosis may be caused by infection with human herpes-6 (39,40), lupus by parvovirus B-19 (27,38) and rheumatoid arthritis by mycoplasma (2-26).

People with autoimmune diseases usually have proteins called antibodies that attach to and damage a person's own body proteins and cells, rather than attaching to and killing known germs that enter the body. For example, antinuclear antibodies, double-stranded DNA antibodies and anticardiolipin antibodies are often fond in people who have lupus and the rheumatoid factor is found in rheumatoid arthritis. These autoantibodies can be caused by infections with Hepatitis B and C viruses, the human immunodeficiency virus, and parvovirus B19 (1,38). Several papers have suggested that rheumatoid arthritis may be caused by mycoplasma bacteria (2-26), lupus by parvovirus B19 (27), Crohn's disease by bacteroides and klebsiella bacteria (28-37), and multiple sclerosis by HHS-6 and JC viruses (39,40) and many doctors are treating rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn's disease with antibiotics. Future studies will show if these autoimmune diseases are actually triggered by infections.

1) KE Hansen, J Arnason, AJ Bridges. Autoantibodies and common viral illnesses. Seminars in Arthritis and Rheumatism 27: 5 (APR 1998):263-271.

2) O'dell et al. Minocycline therapy for early rheumatoid arthritis continued efficacy at three years. Annual meeting of the American College of Rheumatology. November 9, 1997.

3) Higher doses more effective. M Kloppenburg, H Mattie, N Douwes, BAC Dijkmans, FC Breedveld. Minocycline in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis: Relationship of serum concentrations to efficacy. Journal of Rheumatology 22: 4 (APR 1995):611-616.

4) Lancet July 11, 1992. 3) AA Cole, S Chubinskaya, LJ Luchene, K Chlebek, MW Orth, RA Greenwald, KE Kuettner, TM Schmid: Doxycycline disrupts chondrocyte differentiation and inhibits cartilage matrix degradation.(39 references and summary) Arthritis and Rheumatism 37: 12 (DEC 1994):1727-1734.

5) Barbara Tilley, Henry Ford Health Science Center in Detroit. Annals of Internal Medicine. January 14, 1995.

6) B Svenungsson. International Journal of STD & AIDS 6: 3:(MAY-JUN 1995):156-160.

7) Kloppenburg et al. Minocycline double blind for RA. Arthritis and Rheumatism 1994;37:629-636.

8) Langevitz et al. RA with Minocycline. J.Rheumatlogy 1992;19:1502-1504.

9) Breedveld et al. J Rheumatology 1990;17:43-46.

10) Good summary in Lancet 1995(May 27);345:1319-1322.

11) Kloppenburg et al. Minocycline double blind for RA. Arthritis and Rheumatism 1994;37:629-636.

12) Langevitz et al. RA with Minocycline. J.Rheumatlogy 1992;19:1502-1504.

13) Breedveld et al. J Rheumatology 1990;17:43-46.

14) Kloppenburg M et al. Minocycline in Rheumatoid arthritis. Clin Immunother 1996(Jan);5(1):1-4.

14A) Keystone E. et al. Nature Medicine. April, 1995.

15) S Aoki, K Yoshikawa, T Yokoyama, T Nonogaki, S Iwasaki, T Mitsui, S Niwa. Role of enteric bacteria in the pathogenesis of rheumatoid arthritis: Evidence for antibodies to enterobacterial common antigens in rheumatoid sera and synovial fluids. Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases 55: 6 (JUN 1996):363-369.

16) LB Siegel, EP Gall. Viral infection as a cause of arthritis. American Family Physician 54: 6 (NOV 1 1996):2009-2015. (parvovirus, chronic hepatitis B virus and hepatitis C) virus infections.

17) F Li, R Bulbul, HR Schumacher, T Kieberemmons, PE Callegari, JM Vonfeldt, D Norden, B Freundlich, B Wang, V Imonitie, CP Chang, I Nachamkin, DB Weiner, WV Williams. Molecular detection of bacterial DNA in venereal-associated arthritis. Arthritis and Rheumatism 39: 6 (JUN 1996):950-958.

18) D Tabarya, WL Hoffman. Staphylococcus aureus nasal carriage in rheumatoid arthritis: Antibody response to toxic shock syndrome toxin-1. Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases 55: 11 (NOV 1996):823-828.

19) T Origuchi, K Eguchi, Y Kawabe, I Yamashita, A Mizokami, H Ida, S Nagataki. Increased levels of serum IgM antibody to staphylococcal enterotoxin B in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases 54: 9 (SEP 1995):713-720.

20) M Calguneri, S Kiraz, I Ertenli, M Benekli, Y Karaarslan, I Celik. The effect of prophylactic penicillin treatment on the course of arthritis episodes in patients with Behcet's disease: A randomized clinical trial. Arthritis and Rheumatism 39: 12 (DEC 1996):2062-2065.

21) J Despaux, JC Polio, E Toussirot, JC Dalphin, D Wendling. Rheumatoid arthritis and bronchiectasis - A retrospective study of fourteen cases. Revue du Rhumatisme 63: 11 (DEC 1996):801-808.

22) C Wilson, A Thakore, D Isenberg, A Ebringer. Correlation between anti-Proteus antibodies and isolation rates of P-mirabilis in rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatology International 16: 5 (JAN 1997):187-189.

23) JR Odell, CE Haire, W Palmer, W Drymalski, S Wees, K Blakely, M Churchill, PJ Eckhoff, A Weaver, D Doud, N Erikson, F Dietz, R Olson, P Maloley, LW Klassen, GF Moore. Treatment of early rheumatoid arthritis with minocycline or placebo: Results of a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Arthritis and Rheumatism 40: 5 (MAY 1997):842-848. In patients with early seropositive RA, therapy with minocycline is superior to placebo.

24) GN Smith, LP Yu, KD Brandt, WN Capello. Oral administration of doxycycline reduces collagenase and gelatinase activities in extracts of human osteoarthritic cartilage. Journal of Rheumatology 25: 3 (MAR 1998):532-535.

25) T Schaeverbeke, M Clerc, L Lequen, A Charron, C Bebear, B Debarbeyrac, B Bannwarth, J Dehais, C Bebear. Genotypic characterization of seven strains of Mycoplasma fermentans isolated from synovial fluids of patients with arthritis. Journal of Clinical Microbiology 36: 5 (MAY 1998):1226-1231.

26) TV Poggio, N Orlando, L Galanternik, S Grinstein. Microbiology of acute arthropathies among children in Argentina: Mycoplasma pneumoniae and hominis and Ureaplasma urealyticum. Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal 17: 4 (APR 1998):304-308.

27) P Roblot, F Roblot, A Ramassamy, B Becqgiraudon. Lupus syndrome after parvovirus B19 infection. Revue du Rhumatisme 64: 12 (DEC 1997):849-851.

28) Joel Taurog. J of Experimental Medicine. December, 1994. 4) Journal of Clinical Investigation. August, 1996.

29) unpublished results R Balfour Sartor of the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.

30) HJ Vankruiningen. On the use of antibiotics in Crohn's disease. Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology 20: 4 (JUN 1995):310-316.

31) MJ Spirt. Antibiotics in inflammatory bowel disease: New choices for an old disease. American Journal of Gastroenterology 89: 7 (JUL 1994):974-978.

32) P Rutgeerts, M Hiele, K Geboes, M Peeters, F Penninckx. Kerremans. Controlled trial of metronidazole treatment for prevention of Crohn's recurrence after ileal resection. Gastroenterology 108: 6 (JUN1995):1617-1621.

33) C Prantera, F Zannoni, ML Scribano, E Berto, A Andreoli, A Kohn, C Luzi. An antibiotic regimen for the treatment of active Crohn's disease: A randomized, controlled clinical trial of metronidazole plus ciprofloxacin. American Journal of Gastroenterology 91: 2 (FEB 1996):328-332.

34) Kangro et al. A prospective study of viral and mycoplasma infections in chornic inflammatory bowel disease. Gastroenterol 1990;98:549-553.

35) C Prantera,F Zannoni, ML Scribano, E Berto, A Andreoli, A Kohn, C Luzi. An antibiotic regimen for the treatment of active Crohn's disease: A randomized, controlled clinical trial of metronidazole plus ciprofloxacin. American Journal of Gastroenterology 91: 2FEB 1996):328-332. metronidazole and ciprofloxacin alternative to steroids.

36) WK Clarkston, ME Presti, PF Petersen, PE Zachary, WX Fan, CL Leonardi, AM Vernava, WE Longo, JM Kreeger. Role of Mycobacterium paratuberculosis in Crohn's disease: A prospective, controlled study using polymerase chain reaction. Diseases of the Colon & Rectum 41: 2 (FEB 1998):195-199. Not found.

37) F Casellas, N Borruel, M Papo, F Guarner, M Antolin, S Videla, JR Malagelada. Antiinflammatory effects of enterically coated amoxicillin-clavulanic acid in active ulcerative colitis. Inflammatory Bowel Diseases 4: 1 (FEB 1998):1-5.

38) RW Mcmurray. Hepatitis C-associated autoimmune disorders. Rheumatic Disease Clinics of North America 24: 2(MAY 1998):353.

39) P Ferrante, E Omodeozorini, R Caldarellistefano, M Mediati, E Fainardi, E Granieri, D Caputo. Detection of JC virus DNA in cerebrospinal fluid from multiple sclerosis patients. Multiple Sclerosis 4: 2 (APR 1998):49-54.

40) SS Soldan, R Berti, N Salem, P Secchiero, L Flamand, PA Calabresi, MB Brennan, HW Maloni, HF Mcfarland, HC Lin, M Patnaik, S Jacobson. Association of human herpes virus 6 (HHV-6) with multiple sclerosis: Increased IgM response to HHV-6 early antigen and detection of serum HHV-6 DNA. Nature Medicine 3: 12 (DEC 1997):1394-1397.

Checked 7/3/16

May 31st, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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