Recent advances in managing and understanding Stevens-Johnson syndrome and toxic epidermal necrolysis

F1000Res. 2020 Jun 16:9:F1000 Faculty Rev-612. doi: 10.12688/f1000research.24748.1. eCollection 2020.


Stevens-Johnson syndrome (SJS) and toxic epidermal necrolysis (TEN) are life-threatening diseases characterized by detachment of the epidermis and mucous membrane. SJS/TEN are considered to be on the same spectrum of diseases with different severities. They are classified by the percentage of skin detachment area. SJS/TEN can also cause several complications in the liver, kidneys, and respiratory tract. The pathogenesis of SJS/TEN is still unclear. Although it is difficult to diagnose early stage SJS/TEN, biomarkers for diagnosis or severity prediction have not been well established. Furthermore, optimal therapeutic options for SJS/TEN are still controversial. Several drugs, such as carbamazepine and allopurinol, are reported to have a strong relationship with a specific human leukocyte antigen (HLA) type. This relationship differs between different ethnicities. Recently, the usefulness of HLA screening before administering specific drugs to decrease the incidence of SJS/TEN has been investigated. Skin detachment in SJS/TEN skin lesions is caused by extensive epidermal cell death, which has been considered to be apoptosis via the Fas-FasL pathway or perforin/granzyme pathway. We reported that necroptosis, i.e. programmed necrosis, also contributes to epidermal cell death. Annexin A1, released from monocytes, and its interaction with the formyl peptide receptor 1 induce necroptosis. Several diagnostic or prognostic biomarkers for SJS/TEN have been reported, such as CCL-27, IL-15, galectin-7, and RIP3. Supportive care is recommended for the treatment of SJS/TEN. However, optimal therapeutic options such as systemic corticosteroids, intravenous immunoglobulin, cyclosporine, and TNF-α antagonists are still controversial. Recently, the beneficial effects of cyclosporine and TNF-α antagonists have been explored. In this review, we discuss recent advances in the pathophysiology and management of SJS/TEN.

Keywords: Stevens-Johnson syndrome; drug reaction; erythema multiforme; necroptosis; toxic epidermal necrolysis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Apoptosis
  • Epidermis
  • Humans
  • Necrosis
  • Stevens-Johnson Syndrome* / diagnosis
  • Stevens-Johnson Syndrome* / drug therapy
  • Stevens-Johnson Syndrome* / etiology

Grants and funding

The author(s) declared that no grants were involved in supporting this work.