Some infectious agents are recognised causes of cancer and other chronic diseases. In humans, well-known examples of such causal agents include human papillomaviruses that cause cervical cancer, and Epstein-Barr virus inked to Burkitt's lymphoma. More recently, studies from longitudinal cohorts, where participants are followed over an extended period, have shown a link between EBV infection and the development of Multiple sclerosis.
While there is growing evidence that infectious agents may contribute to a wider range of cancers and chronic diseases than currently recognised in the medical literature, the associations, and mechanisms behind these, are much less clear.
In our recent paper in Nature Communications, we present the development and validation of a Multiplex Serology platform to measure quantitative antibody responses against 45 antigens from 20 infectious agents including human herpes, hepatitis, polyoma, papilloma (HPV), and retroviruses, as well as Chlamydia trachomatis, Helicobacter pylori and Toxoplasma gondii. These agents were selected after wide consultation with infectious disease and public health clinicians and epidemiologists, to represent infections that were most likely to be relevant to chronic diseases in world-wide populations (but particularly the UK), and which could be readily detected using antibodies. We used the antibody assay because it is familiar to researchers and clinicians working in the fields of infectious disease and epidemiology, and it is robust and reproducible and amenable to high-throughput analyses. To demonstrate the utility of this panel as a high-throughput alternative for single-agent cross-sectional epidemiological studies and illustrate potential for further investigating both well-recognised and potentially novel host-pathogen-environment-disease associations, we applied this to a subset of 9695 randomly selected participants from UK Biobank.