Life-Threatening Primary Varicella Zoster Virus Infection With Hemophagocytic Lymphohistiocytosis-Like Disease in GATA2 Haploinsufficiency Accompanied by Expansion of Double Negative T-Lymphocytes

Front Immunol. 2018 Dec 3;9:2766. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2018.02766. eCollection 2018.


Two unrelated patients with GATA2-haploinsufficiency developed a hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (HLH)-like disease during a varicella zoster virus (VZV) infection. High copy numbers of VZV were detected in the blood, and the patients were successfully treated with acyclovir and intravenous immunoglobulins. After treatment with corticosteroids for the HLH, both patients made a full recovery. Although the mechanisms leading to this disease constellation have yet to be characterized, we hypothesize that impairment of the immunoregulatory role of NK cells in GATA2-haploinsufficiency may have accentuated the patients' susceptibility to HLH. Expansion of a double negative T-lymphocytic population identified with CyTOF could be a further factor contributing to HLH in these patients. This is the first report of VZV-triggered HLH-like disease in a primary immunodeficiency and the third report of HLH in GATA2-haploinsufficiency. Since HLH was part of the presentation in one of our patients, GATA2-haploinsufficiency represents a potential differential diagnosis in patients presenting with the clinical features of HLH-especially in cases of persisting cytopenia after recovery from HLH.

Keywords: GATA2 deficiency; NK cell abnormalities; TCRγδ T cells; hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis; primary immumunodeficiencies; varicella-zoster virus.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Female
  • GATA2 Deficiency / immunology*
  • GATA2 Deficiency / virology
  • GATA2 Transcription Factor / immunology*
  • Herpesvirus 3, Human / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Lymphohistiocytosis, Hemophagocytic / immunology*
  • Lymphohistiocytosis, Hemophagocytic / virology
  • Male
  • Pilot Projects
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocytes / virology
  • Varicella Zoster Virus Infection / immunology*
  • Varicella Zoster Virus Infection / virology


  • GATA2 Transcription Factor
  • GATA2 protein, human