Introducing polyautoimmunity: secondary autoimmune diseases no longer exist
Similar pathophysiological mechanisms within autoimmune diseases have stimulated searches for common genetic roots. Polyautoimmunity is defined as the presence of more than one autoimmune disease in a single patient. When three or more autoimmune diseases coexist, this condition is called multiple autoimmune syndrome (MAS). We analyzed the presence of polyautoimmunity in 1,083 patients belonging to four autoimmune disease cohorts. Polyautoimmunity was observed in 373 patients (34.4%). Autoimmune thyroid disease (AITD) and Sjögren's syndrome (SS) were the most frequent diseases encountered. Factors significantly associated with polyautoimmunity were female gender and familial autoimmunity. Through a systematic literature review, an updated search was done for all MAS cases (January 2006–September 2011). There were 142 articles retrieved corresponding to 226 cases. Next, we performed a clustering analysis in which AITD followed by systemic lupus erythematosus and SS were the most hierarchical diseases encountered. Our results indicate that coexistence of autoimmune diseases is not uncommon and follows a grouping pattern. Polyautoimmunity is the term proposed for this association of disorders, which encompasses the concept of a common origin for these diseases.
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