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Antibiotics A Potential Mechanism For Autoimmunity
……"The results suggest that gentamicin can cause cells to display novel protein fragments to the immune system," says Goodenough. In other words, "what may be garbage biologically may be important immunologically," says Eisenlohr.
……presenting an antigen to the immune system does not guarantee that it will activate the kind of immune response that initiates autoimmunity. But because gentamicin is usually used to treat infections, "all of the right conditions are in place to potentially initiate autoimmunity," says Eisenlohr. The inflammation associated with bacterial diseases gives a signal to immune cells that the peptides they encounter are dangerous. So even as gentamicin fights the bacteria causing the infection, it also causes normal cells to produce abnormal proteins that are presented to the immune system and have a potential of initiating an autoimmune reaction.
"A number of autoimmune diseases are thought to be triggered by infections," says Eisenlohr. "The results of this study suggest that certain antibiotics used to treat those infections may also contribute to that trigger."
The next steps, says Eisenlohr, could be to look at population data to see whether use of gentamicin correlates with higher rates of autoimmune diseases, as well as testing whether the peptides generated during gentamicin treatment actually do cause autoimmunity in a mouse model of the disease.