Viral infections have been frequently cited as important environmental factors implicated in autoimmune thyroiditis (AIT) development, although no specific virus has yet been conclusively associated with the disease. Some evidence implicates human herpesvirus-6 (HHV-6) in this disease. The aim of this study was to investigate the role of the HHV-6 U83 gene expression in autoimmune thyroiditis development. Fifty-one patients with AIT following thyroidectomy and a control group of 30 autopsied subjects without thyroid pathologies for comparing virology results and 30 healthy blood donors for comparing serology results were enrolled in this study. HHV-6 U83 gene expression was determined using nested PCR with complementary DNA as the template acquired from thyroid gland extracted RNA. Plasma samples of AIT patients and blood donors were tested for IL-2, IL-4, IL-10, sTNF-RII and IL-1beta levels by ELISA. Virology results were compared with pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokine levels to determine possible interaction of HHV-6 with host immune response. HHV-6 U83 gene expression was found only in 24% (12/49) of AIT patient thyroid gland tissue samples and in none of the control group individuals, showing possible involvement of this gene in AIT development. However, no interaction between HHV-6 and changes in cytokine levels was found.
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