by Mary J. Shomon
April 2001 -- An interesting research study out of Greece, and reported on in the journal Clinical Microbiology &
Infection has reported that there is strong evidence of some sort of caustive relationship between the
bacteria known as Yersinia enterocolitica infection, and Hashimoto's thyroiditis.
Yersinia enterocolitica is a type of bacteria, a few strains of which can cause illness in humans. Yersinia
enterocolitica bacteria are found in the fecal matter of livestock, domesticated and wild animals. You can
be exposed to yersinia enterocolitica, therefore, via contaminated meats -- especially raw or undercooked
products -- poultry, unpasteurized milk and dairy products, seafood -- and particularly oysters -- from
sewage-contaminated waters and produce fertilized with raw manure. Foods can also be contaminated by
food handlers who have not effectively washed their hands before handling food or utensils used to
prepare food. Improper storage can also contribute to contamination.
Acute infection reportedly occurs most often in young children, where symptoms are typically fever,
abdominal pain, and diarrhea. In older children and adults, right-sided abdominal pain and fever may be
the predominant symptoms, and may be confused with appendicitis. In a percentage of cases,
complications such as skin rash, joint pains and arthritic-like symptoms can occur. Until recently, the
major "complication" has been thought to be the performance of unnecessary appendectomies,
since one of the main symptoms of infection is abdominal pain of the lower right quadrant.
The CDC estimates that about 17,000 documented cases occur annually in the USA. It is more common
outside the United States.
In this research, investigators studied the prevalence of antibodies to Yersinia enterocolitica in patients
with diagnosed Hashimoto's thyroiditis. What the researchers found was the the prevalence of antibodies
to yersinia --evidence of exposure -- was 14 times higher in people with Hashimoto's thyroiditis than
in the control groups.
The researchers concluded that there is strong evidence for "an immunopathologic causative relationship
between Yersinia enterocolitica infection and Hashimoto's thyroiditis." They also said that the possible
effects of antibiotic therapies for Hashimoto's should be investigated.
What Can You Do?
If you have been diagnosed with Hashimoto's thyroiditis, and in particular, if you have any of the
symptoms or risk factors for yersinia exposure, ask your doctor for a stool test that can detect yersinia
enterocolitica. Since many laboratories do not routinely test for Y. enterocolitica, it is particularly
important for your doctor to notify laboratory personnel when infection with this bacterium is suspected
so that special tests can be done. Great Smokies Diagnostic Labs
can do this testing. Specifically, your doctor would need to order the Comprehensive Digestive Stool Analysis,and specially request the test for yersinia be added.
If detected, yersinia can be treated by various drugs, including antibiotics like doxycycline.
A detailed discussion of the role of infection as a trigger for autoimmune disease, including thyroid problems, is featured in Living Well With Autoimmune Disease.