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Antiphospholipid Antibody Syndrome

Antiphospholipid antibody is an auto-antibody made against one's own normal body chemicals. This antibody, traditionally associated with rheumatic autoimmune diseases such as lupus, has been found in hepatitis C patients showing high levels of the antibody.

The antibody, which is known as the Antiphospholipid Antibody, or APL, is one of a class of antibodies referred to as auto-antibodies. These auto-antibodies, which are common to autoimmune diseases, are proteins produced by the body to attack itself, rather than invading viruses and bacteria.

What is Antiphospholipid Antibody?

Antiphospholipid antibody is a type of auto-antibody that has been implicated in the occurrence of thrombocytopenia. Antiphospholipid antibody has been described in autoimmune disorders and diverse viral diseases.

Antiphospholipid antibodies react with certain "good" body fat cells called lipids. These lipids contain phosphate and the body's outer cellular walls are made of phospholipids. When the level of antiphospholipid antibodies is high and these proteins float freely throughout the blood, a disease state occurs.

What is the Antiphospholipid Antibody Syndrome?

The Antiphospholipid Antibody Syndrome (APS) is associated with recurrent clotting events (thrombosis) including premature stroke, repeated miscarriages, phlebitis, venous thrombosis (clot in the vein) and pulmonary thromboembolism (blockage of an artery found in the lung due to a clot that has traveled from a vein). The Antiphospholipid Antibody Syndrome is also associated with low platelet or blood elements that prevent bleeding.

Recently, even more diseases have been linked with Antiphospholipid Antibody Syndrome. These include premature heart attack, migraine headaches, various cardiac valvular abnormalities, skin lesions, diseases that mimic multiple sclerosis, vascular diseases of the eye that can lead to visual loss and blindness, and early peripheral vascular disease that can result in appendage amputations.

Research conducted by investigators at Yale University School of Medicine and St. Mary's Hospital in Waterbury, Connecticut, (published in the November 1996 of the American Journal of Medicine) discovered either lupus or lupus-like syndrome, premature stroke, recurrent fetal loss, recurrent thrombosis or thrombocytopenia among family members. The study concluded that familial clustering of the APL antibody indicating genetic predisposition.

What does the Antiphospholipid Antibody Syndrome
have to do with Hepatitis C?

There are extrahepatic disorders associated with the hepatitis C virus. Well-established extrahepatic manifestations of HCV include mixed cryoglobulinaemia, thyroid abnormalities and lichen planus. Recently recognized disorders include diabetes mellitus, thrombocytopenia and the Antiphospholipid Antibody Syndrome. Prieto's study of 150 persons concluded that occult HCV infection was present in a significant proportion of patients with thrombotic disorders and positive for anticardiolipin (the antiphospholipid syndrome).(1)

What is an Autoimmune Disease?

Autoimmune diseases occur when the immune system's method of recognizing foreign substances becomes confused. When that happens, the body manufactures immune cells known as T-cells, and autoantibodies, which assault the body's own cells and organs. These misguided T-cells and autoantibodies contribute to many autoimmune diseases. Exactly what starts the process which results in an autoimmune disease is not known, but multiple factors including heredity, viruses, and the environment are believed to play a role.

Because these diseases cross different medical specialties such as rheumatology, endocrinology, neurology, cardiology, gastroenterology and dermatology, there has been minimal coordinated scientific attention to the underlying causes of these diseases and to the determination of why they are more prevalent in women.

Since autoimmunity is the underlying cause of all autoimmune diseases and the leading cause of chronic illness, large studies of patients with neurologic, endocrinologic and rheumatic diseases are needed to determine the mechanics of the Antiphospholipid Antibody Syndrome. In particular, the endocrine autoimmune diseases such as thyroid, juvenile and type 1 diabetes, and rheumatic autoimmune diseases including rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, scleroderma and Sjogren's syndrome, need to be conducted. If Antiphospholipid Antibodies are a common factor in autoimmune diseases, then researchers can begin looking for an autoimmune gene.

Approximately 50 million Americans, (20% of the population or one in five people) suffers from an autoimmune disease. Of these, the majority are women; some estimates say that 75 percent of those affected (over 30 million people) are women. Autoimmune diseases have been estimated to cost $86 billion a year.

 

Source: Oregon Health and Science University