Behçet's disease: New insights into pathophysiology, clinical features and treatment options

Antonio Greco, Armando De Virgilio, Massimo Ralli, Andrea Ciofalo, Patrizia Mancini, Giuseppe Attanasio, Marco de Vincentiis, Alessandro Lambiase
Autoimmunity Reviews 2018, 17 (6): 567-575
Behçet's disease (BD) is a rare systemic vasculitis characterized by oral aphthous ulcers, genital ulcers, ocular lesions and other systemic manifestations. BD occurs most frequently in Eurasian populations along the ancient trading route known as the "Silk Road" which extends from eastern Asia to the Mediterranean basin. The causes of BD are unknown: it is believed to be due to an autoimmune process triggered by an infectious or environmental agent in genetically predisposed individuals. HLA-B51 allele located in the MHC locus, on chromosome 6p, has been the most strongly associated risk factor for BD in areas along the Old Silk Route. Herpes simplex virus-1 and Streptococcus have been postulated as possible environmental triggers of BD. T cell homeostasis perturbation, especially Th1 and Th17 expansion and decreased regulation by Tregs are now supposed to be the cornerstone of BD pathogenesis. The histology shows vasculitis that involves both arteries and veins, and vessels of any size. BD is a systemic vasculitis with significant neutrophil infiltration, endothelial cell swelling, and fibrinoid necrosis. The diagnosis of BD is only supported by clinical criteria and requires the exclusion of other diagnoses based on clinical presentation. There are no pathognomonic laboratorial findings of BD. This rare disease often leads to blindness and fatal systemic involvement. Main causes of death include major vessel disease and central nervous system involvement. Corticosteroids are commonly used to treat clinical manifestations of BD in combination with immunosuppressant drugs. Tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-blocking agents such as Infliximab, Etanercept, and Adalimumab have been reported to have success in patients with BD.


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