Haemolytic uraemic syndrome: an overview

Nephrology (Carlton). 2006 Jun;11(3):213-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1440-1797.2006.00556.x.


Haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS) is the most common cause of acute renal failure in children. The syndrome is defined by triad of microangiopathic haemolytic anaemia, thrombocytopenia and acute renal failure (ARF). Incomplete HUS is ARF with either haemolytic anaemia or thrombocytopenia. HUS is classified into two subgroups. Typical HUS usually occurs after a prodrome of diarrhoea (D+HUS), and atypical (sporadic) HUS (aHUS), which is not associated with diarrhoea (D-HUS). The majority of D+HUS worldwide is caused by Shiga toxin-producing Esherichia coli (STEC), type O157:H7, transmitted to humans via different vehicles. Currently there are no specific therapies preventing or ameliorating the disease course. Although there are new therapeutic modalities in the horizon for D+HUS, present recommended therapy is merely symptomatic. Parenteral volume expansion may counteract the effect of thrombotic process before development of HUS and attenuate renal injury. Use of antibiotics, antimotility agents, narcotics and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs should be avoided during the acute phase. Prevention is best done by preventing primary STEC infection. Underlying aetiology in many cases of aHUS is unknown. A significant number may result from underlying infectious diseases, namely Streptococcus pneumoniae and human immunedeficiency virus. Variety of genetic forms include HUS due to deficiencies of factor H, membrane cofactor protein, Von Willebrand factor-cleaving protease (ADAMTS 13) and intracellular defect in vitamin B12 metabolism. There are cases of aHUS with autosomal recessive and dominant modes of inheritance. Drug-induced aHUS in post-transplantation is due to calcineurin-inhibitors. Systemic lupus erythematosus and catastrophic antiphospholipid syndrome may also present with aHUS. Therapy is directed mainly towards underlying cause.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Hemolytic-Uremic Syndrome / epidemiology
  • Hemolytic-Uremic Syndrome / microbiology
  • Hemolytic-Uremic Syndrome / pathology*
  • Hemolytic-Uremic Syndrome / therapy
  • Humans
  • Necrosis / pathology
  • Prognosis