Environmental triggers of thyroiditis: Hepatitis C and interferon-α

F. Menconi, A. Hasham, Y. Tomer

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


Autoimmune thyroid diseases (AITD) are postulated to develop as a result of a complex interplay between several genetic and environmental influences. The pathogenesis of AITD is still not clearly defined. However, among the implicated triggers (e.g. iodine, infections, medications), more recent data confirmed strong associations of AITD with the hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection and interferon-α (IFNα) therapy. Moreover, it is likely that HCV and IFN act in synergism to trigger AITD in patients. Indeed, approximately 40% of HCV patients develop either clinical or subclinical disease while receiving IFNα. Interferon induced thyroiditis (IIT) can manifest as non-autoimmune thyroiditis (presenting as destructive thyroiditis, or non-autoimmune hypothyroidism), or autoimmune thyroiditis [presenting with clinical features of Graves' disease (GD) or Hashimoto's thyroiditis (HT)]. Although not yet clearly understood, it is thought that IFNα can induce thyroiditis via both immune stimulatory and direct toxic effects on the thyroid. In view of the high frequency of IIT, routine screening and surveillance of HCV patients receiving IFNα is recommended to avoid the complications, such as cardiac arrhythmias, associated with thyrotoxicosis. In summary, IIT is a common clinical problem that can be readily diagnosed with routine thyroid function screening of HCV patients receiving IFN. The treatment of IIT consists of the standard therapy for differing clinical manifestations of IIT such as GD, HT, or destructive thyroiditis. However, anti-thyroid medications are not recommended in this setting since they can potentially be hepatotoxic.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)78-84
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of endocrinological investigation
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Autoimmunity
  • Hepatitis C
  • Infection
  • Interferon
  • Thyroiditis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology


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