Onset of Hemophagocytic Lymphohistiocytosis during Piperacillin-Tazobactam Therapy in Three Children with Acute Focal Bacterial Nephritis

Tohoku J Exp Med. 2018 May;245(1):55-59. doi: 10.1620/tjem.245.55.


Hemophagoytic lymphohistiocytosis (HLH) is a rare life-threatening disorder caused by overactivation of the immune system, associated with infections, autoimmune disorders, and malignancies. The pathological hallmark of HLH is phagocytosis of blood cells and platelets by activated macrophages and histiocytes. In this report, we describe the onset of HLH in three children, aged 2, 5 and 7 years old, during the treatment of acute focal bacterial nephritis (AFBN) with an antibiotic, piperacillin-tazobactam (PIPC-TAZ). AFBN is acute localized bacterial infection of the kidney without abscess formation. PIPC-TAZ was chosen for the treatment of AFBN, because it not only has indications for complicated urinary tract infections, but also covers most of the causative bacteria of urinary tract infections, including β-lactamase-producing Escherichia coli. The clinical courses of the three patients were similar, and they were treated with PIPC-TAZ and amikacin (AMK) for AFBN. Fever went down 2 to 5 days later, and AMK was discontinued by day 6. However, fever recurred on 13 to 15 days after introduction of PIPC-TAZ therapy, even though all of the patients had no signs of recurrence of AFBN. The clinical features and laboratory tests of two patients fulfilled the criteria of HLH, whereas the other patient had initiated therapy before fulfilling the criteria. Cessation of PIPC-TAZ combined with corticosteroid therapy improved clinical symptoms. HLH of our patients was probably induced by PIPC-TAZ, as judged by the timing of the onset of HLH and the positivity of the drug-lymphocyte stimulation test. In conclusion, prolonged antibiotic therapy with PIPC-TAZ could be a cause of HLH.

Keywords: acute focal bacterial nephritis; antibiotics; computed tomography; hemophagoytic lymphohistiocytosis; piperacillin-tazobactam.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Bone Marrow / pathology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lymphohistiocytosis, Hemophagocytic / diagnostic imaging
  • Lymphohistiocytosis, Hemophagocytic / drug therapy*
  • Male
  • Nephritis / diagnostic imaging
  • Nephritis / microbiology*
  • Penicillanic Acid / analogs & derivatives*
  • Penicillanic Acid / therapeutic use
  • Piperacillin / therapeutic use
  • Piperacillin, Tazobactam Drug Combination
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed


  • Piperacillin, Tazobactam Drug Combination
  • Penicillanic Acid
  • Piperacillin