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Ann Hematol. 2018 Jun;97(6):989-998. doi: 10.1007/s00277-018-3254-4. Epub 2018 Feb 6.

Malignancy and chemotherapy induced haemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis in children and adolescents-a single centre experience of 20 years.

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Department of Paediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, Medical University of Graz, Auenbruggerplatz 34/2, A-8036, Graz, Austria.
Department of Paediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, Medical University of Graz, Auenbruggerplatz 34/2, A-8036, Graz, Austria.
Department of Virology, Medical University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria.
Institute of Hygiene, Microbiology and Environmental Medicine, Medical University of Graz, Graz, Austria.


Haemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (HLH) is a possibly life-threatening syndrome of immune dysregulation and can be divided into primary (hereditary) and secondary forms (including malignancy-associated HLH (M-HLH)). We retrospectively analysed epidemiological, clinical, virological and laboratory data from patients with M-HLH treated at our department between 1995 and 2014. Out of 1.706 haemato-/oncologic patients treated at our department between 1995 and 2014, we identified 22 (1.29%) patients with secondary HLH (1.3-18.0, median 10.1 years; malignancy induced n = 2; chemotherapy induced n = 20). Patients with acute myeloblastic leukaemia (AML) developed HLH significantly more often than patients with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) (10/55, 18.2% vs. 6/148, 4.1%, p = 0.0021). As possible viral triggers, we detected BKV (53.8% of the tested patients), HHV-6 (33.3%), EBV (27.8%), CMV (23.5%), ADV (16.7%) and PVB19 (16.7%) significantly more frequently than in haemato-/oncologic patients without HLH. Despite lacking evidence of concurrent bacterial infection, C-reactive protein (CRP) and procalcitotnin (PCT) were elevated in 94.7 and 77.7% of the patients, respectively. Ferritin and sIL2R were markedly elevated in all patients. HLH-associated mortality significantly (p = 0.0276) decreased from 66.6% (1995-2004) to 6.25% (2005-2014), suggesting improved diagnostic and therapeutic management. Awareness of HLH is important, and fever refractory to antibiotics should prompt to consider this diagnosis. Elevated ferritin and sIL2R seem to be good markers, while inflammatory markers like CRP and PCT are not useful to discriminate viral triggered HLH from severe bacterial infection. Re-/activation of several viruses may play a role as possible trigger.


Children; Haemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis; Procalcitonin; Viral reactivation

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