The Role of Bacterial Infections in the Pathogenesis of Lupus
With his TIL grant, Dr. Roberto Caricchio is studying whether usually harmless, common bacterial infections, such as urinary tract infections, might be an environmental trigger of lupus onset and flares in genetically at-risk individuals. Normally, a bacterial infection sets off the immune system to make antibodies and take other actions to fight off the invading bacteria. Dr. Caricchio’s theory is that in people who are susceptible to lupus, those infections also cause the immune system to make antibodies that recognize and attack a person’s own body.
What this study means to people with lupus
Dr. Caricchio will look specifically at urinary tract infections (UTIs) in people with and without lupus. Some bacteria that cause UTIs produce a protein called “curli” that can bind to DNA and form a compound that triggers lupus in mouse models. Preliminary evidence shows that individuals with lupus have antibodies against this curli/DNA compound. Dr. Caricchio will investigate whether curli/DNA antibodies can predict lupus in at-risk people and if UTIs in people who have lupus create curli/DNA compounds in their blood that cause flares. This exciting research could open a new avenue of approaches to treat and even prevent lupus.