Objective: The study goal was to determine the diagnostic accuracy of a specific cytokine pattern including interferon-gamma (IFN-γ), interleukin (IL)-10, and IL-6 for hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (HLH) in febrile children.
Study design: In this prospective study, 756 patients with fever admitted to a hematology-oncology unit were enrolled. The causes of fever were documented and the serum cytokines, including IFN-γ, tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α), IL-10, IL-6, IL-4, and IL-2, were determined using cytometric bead array techniques.
Results: Of 1474 episodes of fever that were analyzed, 71 episodes of HLH manifested a specific cytokine pattern of highly increased levels of IFN-γ (median level: 1088.5 pg/mL) and IL-10 (623.5 pg/mL) but a moderately increased level of IL-6 (51.1 pg/mL). IL-6 was predominantly increased to varied extents in patients in the sepsis group (244.6 pg/mL) and the nonsepsis infection group (34.7 pg/mL). The diagnostic accuracy of IFN-γ and IL-10 for HLH was 99.5% and 92.8%, respectively. By applying the cutoff point of 100 pg/mL, IFN-γ had a sensitivity of 94.4% and a specificity of 97.2% for HLH. When using the criteria of IFN-γ >75 pg/mL and IL-10 >60 pg/mL, the specificity reached 98.9% and the sensitivity was 93.0%.
Conclusions: The specific cytokine pattern of markedly elevated levels of IFN-γ and IL-10 with only modestly elevated IL-6 levels has high diagnostic accuracy for HLH and may be a useful approach to differentiate HLH from infection.
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