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Virchows Arch. 2014 Jan;464(1):95-103. doi: 10.1007/s00428-013-1516-z. Epub 2013 Nov 30.

Necrotizing lymphadenitis (NEL) is a systemic disease characterized by blastic transformation of CD8+ cells and apoptosis of CD4+ cells.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, Iwaki Kyoritsu General Hospital, 16 Kusehara, Mimaya-machi, Uchigo, Iwaki, 973-8555, Japan,


This clinicopathological, immunohistochemical, electron microscopic, and serological study of 382 cases (148 male, 234 female) of necrotizing lymphadenitis (NEL) in Japan confirms NEL as a self-limited disease with characteristic clinical features: high fever (38-40 °C), painful cervical lymphadenopathy (88.3 %), and leukopenia (under 4,000/mm(3)) without seasonal occurrence. Patient age varied from 5 to 80 years, but 62.8 % was younger than 30 years. There were five recurrent cases and four familial cases. In several cases, elevated serum aminotransaminase and antinuclear antibodies were found. Early in the disease, peripheral blood CD8+ cells were more abundant than CD4+ cells, but CD8+ cells decreased gradually with clinical progression, leading to an increasing ratio of CD4+/CD8+ cells during clinical course. Morphological features of involved lymph nodes are numerous CD8+ large immunoblasts, smaller CD4+ lymphocytes, plasmacytoid dendritic cells, histiocytes, and macrophages, the latter with phagocytized CD4+ apoptotic lymphocytes. Granulocytes are generally absent. These characteristics suggest that NEL is a reactive disease characterized by diploid disrupted CD4+ cells and CD8+ cells transforming to blastic cells. The etiology of the disease remains unknown, although viral infection is suggested, and its pathogenesis might include autoimmunity. Clinical characteristics and cytological and histological findings on lymph node biopsies can improve NEL diagnosis.

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