The first two authors have equally contributed to this paper.
Infections are believed to often play a role in the immunopathogenesis of autoimmune disorders; such is the case in systemic sclerosis (SSc). In order to evaluate the potential role infections may have on the pathogenesis of SSc, we assessed serological reactivity against various infectious agents in patients with SSc and compared them with healthy controls. Serological samples obtained from 80 patients with SSc were compared with 296 compatible healthy controls. Both groups were of European origin. All samples were tested for the presence of antibodies directed against hepatitis B virus, hepatitis C virus, toxoplasmosis, rubella, CMV, EBV, and Treponema pallidum. We applied Bio-Rad commercial and experimental kits to assess most antigens and ELISA assays to complete the panel. Patients with SSc had elevated IgM and IgG against Toxoplasma gondii and against CMV. Higher titers were also detected against the hepatitis B virus core protein (recombinant HBc antigen) using MONOLISA anti-HBc Plus commercial kit (Bio-Rad). A significantly higher rate of IgM antibodies against the capsid antigen of the EBV was detected in SSc patients compared with healthy controls, as well. These data demonstrate that antibodies against CMV, HBV, and toxoplasmosis were detected more often in patients with SSc. This association implies that infectious agents may have a role in disease pathogenesis and expression.