Fatal autoimmune hemolytic anemia due to immunoglobulin g autoantibody exacerbated by epstein-barr virus

Lab Med. 2015 Winter;46(1):55-9. doi: 10.1309/LM9OWRF64OGQODEA.


Most cases of autoimmune hemolytic anemia (AIHA) are caused by the production of an autoantibody that targets determinants on red blood cells (RBCs). This autoantibody can be immunoglobulin (Ig) G, IgM, or IgA. Some autoantibodies react optimally at 0° to 4°C (ie, cold agglutinin) and usually are clinically insignificant. High-titer cold agglutinins are associated with IgM autoantibody and complement fixation induced by infectious agents, including the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). This case report describes a 31-year-old man who had jaundice, a hemoglobin of 6.0 gdL, and was diagnosed with a hemolytic crisis of AIHA. He received a total of 11 RBC transfusions during a 15-hour period without sustained response and later died. The direct antiglobulin test results for this patient were positive, whereas the cold-agglutinin-testing results were negative. We detected EBV DNA in blood via polymerase chain reaction (PCR). We report a rare case of AIHA associated with an IgG autoantibody and exacerbated by EBV infection, causing a fatal hemolytic anemia.

Keywords: EBV; IgG; IgM; autoantibody; direct antiglobulin test; hemolytic anemia; red blood cell transfusions.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anemia, Hemolytic, Autoimmune / immunology*
  • Anemia, Hemolytic, Autoimmune / therapy
  • Anemia, Hemolytic, Autoimmune / virology*
  • Autoantibodies / blood*
  • Cryoglobulins / metabolism
  • DNA, Viral / blood
  • Epstein-Barr Virus Infections / complications*
  • Erythrocyte Transfusion / methods
  • Herpesvirus 4, Human* / genetics
  • Herpesvirus 4, Human* / pathogenicity
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin G / blood
  • Male


  • Autoantibodies
  • Cryoglobulins
  • DNA, Viral
  • Immunoglobulin G
  • cold agglutinins