Hemophagocytic syndromes and infection

Emerg Infect Dis. Nov-Dec 2000;6(6):601-8. doi: 10.3201/eid0606.000608.


Hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (HLH) is an unusual syndrome characterized by fever, splenomegaly, jaundice, and the pathologic finding of hemophagocytosis (phagocytosis by macrophages of erythrocytes, leukocytes, platelets, and their precursors) in bone marrow and other tissues. HLH may be diagnosed in association with malignant, genetic, or autoimmune diseases but is also prominently linked with Epstein-Barr (EBV) virus infection. Hyperproduction of cytokines, including interferon-gamma and tumor necrosis factor-alpha, by EBV- infected T lymphocytes may play a role in the pathogenesis of HLH. EBV-associated HLH may mimic T-cell lymphoma and is treated with cytotoxic chemotherapy, while hemophagocytic syndromes associated with nonviral pathogens often respond to treatment of the underlying infection.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cytokines / physiology
  • Epstein-Barr Virus Infections / complications
  • Histiocytosis, Non-Langerhans-Cell / epidemiology
  • Histiocytosis, Non-Langerhans-Cell / etiology*
  • Histiocytosis, Non-Langerhans-Cell / therapy
  • Humans
  • Phagocytosis
  • Prognosis


  • Cytokines