Although Bechterew’s disease has been plaguing humanity since ancient times (the first skeletal findings documenting this disease are known from Egyptian Pharaohs), it was not known until 1893. It was named after the famous Russian neurologist Vladimir Bechterev, more recently referred to as ankylosing spondylitis.
The exact cause of Bechterew’s disease remains unclear. However, the link between the disease and the presence of HLA-B27 antigen has long been known. HLA antigens are molecules on the surface of the cells, according to which the immune system recognizes its own cells from foreign cells.
Various HLA antigens exist and HLA-B27 antigen is present in about 7% of the population. Bechtereviks can be demonstrated in up to 90% of cases. In persons with HLA-B27 antigen, the probability of the disease is up to 300 times higher than those who do not have this antigen.
However, the presence of HLA-B27 does not mean you will be affected by Bechterew’s disease, it is only an increased risk.
Cross Reaction Theory
The very presence of HLA-B27 antigen does not cause Bechterew’s disease. Other factors that we do not know about are still needed. We know, however, that Bechterov’s disease is a so-called autoimmune disease, basically caused by a faulty reaction of the immune system that attacks normal cells.
Why does this immune system explain, for example, the so-called cross reaction theory. Although this theory has not yet been confirmed, the best explanation for the occurrence of autoimmune reaction and subsequently Bechterew’s disease is now accepted.
According to the theory of cross-reaction, Bechterew’s disease arises when the human HLA-B27-bearing organism is infected with a bacterium that has an antigen similar to that of HLA-B27 antigen on its surface. Encountering a bacterium causes the immune system to react, and to destroy antibodies against the antigen.
Unfortunately, because the immune system is now activated against all structures similar to HLA-B27 antigen, other cells that have this antigen on its surface begin to attack. It would be normal healthy cells of his own organism.