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Disease Markers
Volume 29 (2010), Issue 6, Pages 313-321

Infection as a Risk Factor in the Pathogenesis of Primary Biliary Cirrhosis: Pros and Cons

Teru Kumagi, Masanori Abe, Yoshiou Ikeda, and Yoichi Hiasa

Gastroenterology and Metabology, Ehime University, Graduate School of Medicine, Ehime, Japan

Received 24 January 2011; Accepted 24 January 2011

Copyright © 2010 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC) is a chronic and slowly progressive cholestatic liver disease of autoimmune etiology, characterized by injury of the intrahepatic bile ducts that may eventually lead to cirrhosis and liver failure. Evidence suggests cardinal roles for both environmental factors and genetic susceptibility. Nevertheless, the absolute etiology of PBC is unclear, despite recent well-designed case-control studies that reported environmental risk factors, including infectious agents, for PBC. Of the reported infectious agents, some of them are not reproducible and remain controversial. However, infection is no doubt one of the major risks among the environmental factors. This is supported by the fact that infectious agents in autoimmune diseases express antigens resulting in molecular mimicry and xenobiotics that play a role in breaking tolerance. Taken together, recent findings from genome wide assays as well as novel animal models may enable us to better understand the mechanism of pathogenesis responsible for this disease.