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Respirol Case Rep. 2015 Nov 30;4(1):4-6. doi: 10.1002/rcr2.137. eCollection 2016 Mar.

Successful treatment of cytomegalovirus associated hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis with the interleukin 1 inhibitor - anakinra.

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The Prince Charles Hospital Brisbane Queensland Australia.
Noosa Hospital ICU Noosa Queensland Australia.
Alfred Hospital Melbourne Victoria Australia.


Hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (HLH) is a rare, frequently under-recognized condition associated with multi-organ failure and very high mortality. A 44-year-old woman was admitted with a 4-day history of fever, headache, delirium, and dyspnea. She progressed rapidly to type 1 respiratory failure and required intubation and mechanical ventilation. Laboratory tests showed pancytopenia, abnormal liver enzyme levels, elevated triglyceride level, and elevated ferritin level. Bone marrow biopsy showed features of HLH. Computed tomography scan showed bilateral consolidation. Bronchoalveolar lavage was positive for cytomegalovirus. She was treated with ganciclovir, methylprednisolone, broad spectrum antibiotics, and cytomegalovirus hyperimmunoglobulin without clinical response. Given the poor prognosis and reports of success in pediatric HLH, anakinra 100 µg subcutaneously daily was commenced. There was rapid defervescence, resolution of delirium, and improvement in gas exchange, leading to complete recovery. This case illustrates successful treatment of HLH associated with cytomegalovirus pneumonitis with the interleukin 1 inhibitor anakinra.


Hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis; inflammation; pulmonary; virology

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