Purpose of review
The article traces the pathways leading from viral infection of the heart by coxsackievirus B3 to autoimmune myocarditis in its various manifestations.
Myocarditis can be induced by a number of different infectious agents and represents a significant cause of death especially in young individuals. Following infection, patients may develop lymphocytic, eosinophilic, or giant cell/granulomatous myocardial inflammation. It can lead to infectious dilated cardiomyopathy, a disease frequently requiring cardiac transplantation. Although acute viral myocarditis is frequently subclinical and recovery may be spontaneous, treatment of chronic myocarditis is currently unsatisfactory. Ongoing disease may be because of persistent virus in the heart or to immunopathic attack. Depending on the cause, treatment may be antiviral or immunosuppressive. Endomyocardial biopsy is proving of value in determining cause and deciding future therapy. A great deal of information about the pathogenesis of myocarditis has been gained from experimental models in rodents using heart disease induced by infection using coxsackievirus B3 or by immunization with cardiac myosin.
Treatment of myocarditis is still problematic and may depend on etiologic diagnosis to distinguish infectious from immune-mediated disease. Both pathogenic mechanisms may co-occur in individual patients. In the future, treatment may depend upon endomyocardial biopsy, immunohistologic testing, improved imaging, and molecular genetic analysis for providing more precise diagnoses.