Systemic sclerosis (SSc) is a connective tissue disease secondary to three cardinal pathological features: immune-system alterations, diffuse microangiopathy, and fibrosis involving the skin and internal organs. The etiology of SSc remains quite obscure; it may encompass multiple host genetic and environmental -infectious/chemical-factors. The present review focused on the potential role of environmental agents in the etiopathogenesis of SSc based on epidemiological, clinical, and laboratory investigations previously published in the world literature. Among infectious agents, some viruses that may persist and reactivate in infected individuals, namely human cytomegalovirus (HCMV), human herpesvirus-6 (HHV-6), and parvovirus B19 (B19V), and retroviruses have been proposed as potential causative agents of SSc. These viruses share a number of biological activities and consequent pathological alterations, such as endothelial dysfunction and/or fibroblast activation. Moreover, the acute worsening of pre-existing interstitial lung involvement observed in SSc patients with symptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infection might suggest a potential role of this virus in the overall disease outcome. A variety of chemical/occupational agents might be regarded as putative etiological factors of SSc. In this setting, the SSc complicating silica dust exposure represents one of the most promising models of study. Considering the complexity of SSc pathogenesis, none of suggested causative factors may explain the appearance of the whole SSc; it is likely that the disease is the result of a multifactorial and multistep pathogenetic process. A variable combination of potential etiological factors may modulate the appearance of different clinical phenotypes detectable in individual scleroderma patients. The in-deep investigations on the SSc etiopathogenesis may provide useful insights in the broad field of human diseases characterized by diffuse microangiopathy or altered fibrogenesis.
Insights into the knowledge of complex diseases: Environmental infectious/toxic agents as potential etiopathogenetic factors of systemic sclerosis / Ferri, C.; Arcangeletti, M. -C.; Caselli, E.; Zakrzewska, K.; Maccari, C.; Calderaro, A.; D'Accolti, M.; Soffritti, I.; Arvia, R.; Sighinolfi, G.; Artoni, E.; Giuggioli, D.. - In: JOURNAL OF AUTOIMMUNITY. - ISSN 0896-8411. - 124(2021), p. 102727.102727. [10.1016/j.jaut.2021.102727]
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