Disseminated BCG infection mimicking metastatic nasopharyngeal carcinoma in an immunodeficient child with a novel hypomorphic NEMO mutation

J Clin Immunol. 2011 Oct;31(5):802-10. doi: 10.1007/s10875-011-9568-9. Epub 2011 Jul 14.


Background: Nuclear factor-κB essential modulator (NEMO) deficiency is a developmental and immunological disorder. The genetic and phenotypic correlation has been described.

Methods: We report a unique clinical presentation and the identification of a novel missense mutation in the NEMO gene in a 3-year-old boy with bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) infection.

Results: The patient presented with fever, cervical lymphadenopathy, and abnormal anti-Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) antibody titers, suggestive of EBV-related diseases including chronic active EBV infection, X-linked lymphoproliferative syndrome, or nasopharyngeal carcinoma. Although the biopsy specimen from a nasopharyngeal lesion was initially diagnosed as squamous cell carcinoma, this was changed to disseminated BCG infection involving the nasopharynx, multiple systemic lymph nodes, and brain. A novel mutation (designated D311E) in the NEMO gene, located in the NEMO ubiquitin-binding (NUB) domain, was identified as the underlying cause of the immunodeficiency. Impaired immune responses which are characteristic of patients with NEMO deficiency were demonstrated. The patient underwent successful unrelated bone marrow transplantation at 4.9 years of age.

Conclusion: This study suggests the importance of the NUB domain in host defense against mycobacteria. The unique presenting features in our patient indicate that a hypomorphic NEMO mutation can be associated with atypical pathological findings of the epithelial tissues in patients with BCG infection.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / diagnosis*
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / genetics*
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / immunology
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / pathology
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / physiopathology
  • Child, Preschool
  • DNA Mutational Analysis
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Ectodermal Dysplasia
  • Epstein-Barr Virus Infections / diagnosis*
  • Epstein-Barr Virus Infections / genetics*
  • Epstein-Barr Virus Infections / immunology
  • Epstein-Barr Virus Infections / pathology
  • Epstein-Barr Virus Infections / physiopathology
  • Herpesvirus 4, Human / immunology*
  • Herpesvirus 4, Human / pathogenicity
  • Humans
  • I-kappa B Kinase / genetics
  • I-kappa B Kinase / metabolism*
  • Immunity, Innate
  • Lymphatic Diseases
  • Male
  • Mutation / genetics
  • Mycobacterium bovis / immunology*
  • Mycobacterium bovis / pathogenicity
  • Nasopharyngeal Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Nasopharyngeal Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Nasopharyngeal Neoplasms / immunology
  • Nasopharyngeal Neoplasms / pathology
  • Nasopharyngeal Neoplasms / physiopathology
  • Tuberculosis / diagnosis*
  • Tuberculosis / genetics*
  • Tuberculosis / immunology
  • Tuberculosis / pathology
  • Tuberculosis / physiopathology
  • Ubiquitination / genetics
  • X-Linked Combined Immunodeficiency Diseases / diagnosis*
  • X-Linked Combined Immunodeficiency Diseases / genetics*
  • X-Linked Combined Immunodeficiency Diseases / immunology
  • X-Linked Combined Immunodeficiency Diseases / pathology
  • X-Linked Combined Immunodeficiency Diseases / physiopathology


  • IKBKG protein, human
  • I-kappa B Kinase