Macrophage-activation syndrome (MAS) is a potentially life-threatening complication of systemic juvenile idiopathic arthritis (s-JIA). Tocilizumab (TCZ), a humanized anti-IL-6 receptor monoclonal antibody, is an effective cytokine inhibitor for the treatment of s-JIA. We described the clinical courses of five cases of MAS during TCZ therapy and demonstrated the need for monitoring serum interleukin (IL)-18 and IL-6 concentrations. Clinical symptoms of patients with s-JIA receiving TCZ were apparently mild compared to those not receiving TCZ. Furthermore, serum CRP concentrations never increased during TCZ therapy, even in MAS. Serum IL-6 concentrations increased during s-JIA flare-up and with the complication of infection. Serum IL-18 concentrations increased persistently before the other measures of disease activity. The clinical symptoms of MAS and s-JIA could be masked during TCZ therapy; hence, monitoring serum concentrations of IL-18 and IL-6 is recommended for the evaluation of disease activity in s-JIA and to detect the complication of infection.
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