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Open Access Highly Accessed Debate

Debate around infection-dependent hemophagocytic syndrome in paediatrics

Valentina Ansuini1, Donato Rigante2 and Susanna Esposito1*

Author Affiliations

1 Pediatric Clinic 1, Department of Pathophysiology and Transplantation, Università degli Studi di Milano, Fondazione IRCCS Ca’ Granda Ospedale Maggiore Policlinico, Via Commenda 9, 20122, Milan, Italy

2 Institute of Pediatrics, Università Cattolica Sacro Cuore, Rome, Italy

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BMC Infectious Diseases 2013, 13:15  doi:10.1186/1471-2334-13-15

Published: 16 January 2013

Abstract

Background

Hemophagocytic syndrome (HPS) is clinically defined as a combination of fever, liver dysfunction, coagulation abnormalities, pancytopenia, progressive macrophage proliferation throughout the reticuloendothelial system, and cytokine over-production, and may be primary or secondary to infectious, auto-immune, and tumoral diseases. The most consistent association is with viral infections but, as it is still debated whether any micro-organisms are involved in its pathogenesis, we critically appraised the literature concerning HPS and its relationship with infections.

Discussion

Infection-dependent HPS has been widely observed, but there are no data concerning its incidence in children. A better understanding of the pathophysiology of HPS may clarify the interactions between the immune system and the variously implicated potential infectious agents. Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infection has been prominently associated with HPS, with clonal proliferation and the hyperactivation of EBV-infected T cells. However, a number of other viral, bacterial, fungal, and parasitic infections have been reported in association with HPS. In the case of low-risk HPS, corticosteroids and/or intravenous immunoglobulin or cyclosporine A may be sufficient to control the biological process, but etoposide is recommended as a means of reversing infection-dependent lymphohistiocytic dysregulation in high-risk cases.

Summary

HPS is a potential complication of various infections. A polymerase chain reaction search for infectious agents including EBV, cytomegalovirus and Leishmania is recommended in clinical settings characterised by non-remitting fever, organomegaly, cytopenia and hyperferritinemia.