RESEARCH ARTICLE


Infections Are Not Increased in Scleroderma Compared to Non-Inflammatory Musculoskeletal Disorders Prior to Disease Onset



Janet E Pope*, Jodi L Goodwin, Janine M Ouimet, Adriana Krizova, Matthew Laskin
Division of Rheumatology, Department of Medicine, The University of Western Ontario, London, Canada


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2007 Bentham Science Publishers Ltd.

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5/), which permits unrestrictive use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Division of Rheumatology, Department of Medicine, The University of Western Ontario, London, Canada; E-mail: janet.pope@sjhc.london.on.ca


Abstract

The etiology of scleroderma (SSc) is unknown; immunogenic stimuli such as infections and vaccinations could theoretically be risk factors for scleroderma. Our objective was to assess the relationship between viral and bacterial infec-tions, and vaccinations, prior to diagnosis of SSc compared to non-inflammatory controls. Methods: A questionnaire was sent to individuals with SSc (n =83) and controls (n=351) with non-inflammatory musculoskeletal (MSK) disorders (os-teoarthritis, n = 204; tendonitis, n = 58; fibromyalgia, n= 89) from a rheumatology practice. Questions ascertained past in-fections, exposure to infectious agents and vaccination history. Results: The response rate was 78% (SSc) and 56% (MSK controls). The mean age was 56 ± 1.6 (SSc) and 58 ± 0.9 (MSK); 88% (SSc) and 82% (MSK) were female. No association between prior infections and SSc was observed. In fact, controls were more likely than SSc subjects to report any infec-tion within 1-year prior to disease diagnosis (35% vs. 16%, p<0.006), or to have suffered a trauma to affected joints prior to diagnosis (44% vs. 19%, p<0.0002). Within the 1-year prior to disease diagnosis, controls reported slightly more strep-tococcal infections (p<0.2), infections with diarrhea and vomiting (p<0.3), and antibiotic use (p<0.09), although none of these results were statistically significant. Histories of any hepatitis, rubella, any bacterial infection, and having had a pre-vious positive tuberculosis skin test were not significantly different between groups and were actually more often reported by the control subjects. SSc reported slightly more hepatitis B (p<0.08), more rheumatic fever (p<0.8) in past, and herpes zoster (p<0.4), although no differences reached significance. Conclusion: This study does not support that self-report of symptomatic infections are more likely to occur ever (prior to diagnosis) or within 1-year prior to symptom onset of SSc, or that vaccinations in adulthood trigger SSc.

Keywords: Scleroderma, etiology, infectious triggers, bacterial infections, viral infections, vaccinations..