Hemolytic uremic syndrome

Semin Immunopathol. 2014 Jul;36(4):399-420. doi: 10.1007/s00281-014-0416-x. Epub 2014 Feb 14.


Hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) is a thrombotic microangiopathy defined by thrombocytopenia, nonimmune microangiopathic hemolytic anemia, and acute renal failure. The most frequent form is associated with infections by Shiga-like toxin-producing bacteria (STEC-HUS). Rarer cases are triggered by neuraminidase-producing Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococcal-HUS). The designation of aHUS is used to refer to those cases in which an infection by Shiga-like toxin-producing bacteria or S. pneumoniae can be excluded. Studies performed in the last two decades have documented that hyperactivation of the complement system is the pathogenetic effector mechanism leading to the endothelial damage and the microvascular thrombosis in aHUS. Recent data suggested the involvement of the complement system in the pathogenesis of STEC-HUS and pneumococcal-HUS as well. Clinical signs and symptoms may overlap among the different forms of HUS; however, pneumococcal-HUS and aHUS have a worse prognosis compared with STEC-HUS. Early diagnosis and identification of underlying pathogenetic mechanism allows instating specific support measures and therapies. In clinical trials in patients with aHUS, complement inhibition by eculizumab administration leads to a rapid and sustained normalization of hematological parameters with improvement in long-term renal function. This review summarizes current concepts about the epidemiological findings, the pathological and clinical aspects of STEC-HUS, pneumococcal-HUS, and aHUS, and their diagnosis and management.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Complement Activation / immunology
  • Complement System Proteins / immunology
  • Hemolytic-Uremic Syndrome / epidemiology
  • Hemolytic-Uremic Syndrome / immunology*
  • Hemolytic-Uremic Syndrome / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Pneumococcal Infections / epidemiology
  • Pneumococcal Infections / immunology*
  • Pneumococcal Infections / pathology*
  • Streptococcus pneumoniae / immunology*


  • Complement System Proteins