Viral infection in induction of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis: a key player or just a bystander?

PURPOSE OF REVIEW:

Viral infection activates both the innate and adaptive immunity and is implicated as a trigger of autoimmune diseases including Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. This review summarizes our knowledge respecting the role of viral infection in the cause of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.

RECENT FINDINGS:

Components of several viruses such as hepatitis C virus, human parvovirus B19, coxsackie virus and herpes virus are detected in the thyroid of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis patients. Bystander activation of autoreactive T cells may be involved in triggering intrathyroidal inflammation. Signaling molecules associated with antiviral responses including Toll-like receptors may participate in Hashimoto’s thyroiditis induction. However, studies have provided insufficient direct evidence for the viral hypothesis in Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.

SUMMARY:

Despite interesting circumstantial evidence, whether viral infection is responsible for Hashimoto’s thyroiditis remains unclear. Studies addressing this issue are required to substantiate a contribution from viral infection to Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and, consequently, the prospect for developing preventive modalities for Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.