Sera from 530 children suffering from various diseases and from 64 controls were tested for smooth muscle autoantibodies (SMA) by indirect immunofluorescence. A high incidence of SMA (51-86%) was found in patients with viral and bacterial infections (viral hepatitis, infectious mononucleosis, measles, mumps, chickenpox, typhoid fever, and brucellosis), independently of liver invovlvement, and in patients with acute haemolytic anaemia due to G-6-PD deficiency (48%). By contrast, the incidence of SMA from patients with beta-thalassaemia major and idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura was no higher than in the controls. The discrepancy in incidence in haemolytic anaemias due to different causes may reflect the effect of endogenous and extrinsic agents. In the viral infections, SMA were mainly of the IgM class and gave an 'SMA-V' staining pattern. In bacterial infections (typhoid fever and brucellosis), SMA were either IgG only or IgM and IgG, and the staining pattern was also mainly 'SMA-V'. In infections which affect or may affect the liver (viral hepatitis, infectious mononucleosis, typhoid fever, and brucellosis), SMA was present at high titres (1:80-1:320), whereas in infections not affecting the liver (measles, mumps, and chickenpox) the titres were lower (less than or equal to 1:80). In most patients SMA occurred transiently and without apparent pathogenetic significance. The antigen against which infection-induced SMA is directed is not actin; its nature has yet to be identified.
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