The Clinical Chameleon of Autoinflammatory Diseases in Children

Cells. 2022 Jul 18;11(14):2231. doi: 10.3390/cells11142231.


The very first line of defense in humans is innate immunity, serving as a critical strongpoint in the regulation of inflammation. Abnormalities of the innate immunity machinery make up a motley group of rare diseases, named 'autoinflammatory', which are caused by mutations in genes involved in different immune pathways. Self-limited inflammatory bouts involving skin, serosal membranes, joints, gut and other districts of the human body burst and recur with variable periodicity in most autoinflammatory diseases (ADs), often leading to secondary amyloidosis as a long-term complication. Dysregulated inflammasome activity, overproduction of interleukin (IL)-1 or other IL-1-related cytokines and delayed shutdown of inflammation are pivotal keys in the majority of ADs. The recent progress of cellular biology has clarified many molecular mechanisms behind monogenic ADs, such as familial Mediterranean fever, tumor necrosis factor receptor-associated periodic syndrome (or 'autosomal dominant familial periodic fever'), cryopyrin-associated periodic syndrome, mevalonate kinase deficiency, hereditary pyogenic diseases, idiopathic granulomatous diseases and defects of the ubiquitin-proteasome pathway. A long-lasting history of recurrent fevers should require the ruling out of chronic infections and malignancies before considering ADs in children. Little is known about the potential origin of polygenic ADs, in which sterile cytokine-mediated inflammation results from the activation of the innate immunity network, without familial recurrency, such as periodic fever/aphthous stomatitis/pharyngitis/cervical adenopathy (PFAPA) syndrome. The puzzle of febrile attacks recurring over time with chameleonic multi-inflammatory symptoms in children demands the inspection of the mixture of clinical data, inflammation parameters in the different disease phases, assessment of therapeutic efficacy of a handful of drugs such as corticosteroids, colchicine or IL-1 antagonists, and genotype analysis to exclude or confirm a monogenic origin.

Keywords: PFAPA syndrome; autoinflammation; autoinflammatory disorder; child; interleukin-1; periodic fever; personalized medicine.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amyloidosis
  • Child
  • Fever
  • Hereditary Autoinflammatory Diseases* / diagnosis
  • Hereditary Autoinflammatory Diseases* / genetics
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate*
  • Inflammation
  • Interleukin-1
  • Recurrence
  • Syndrome


  • Interleukin-1

Grants and funding

This research received no external funding.