HUS and TTP: traversing the disease and the age spectrum

Semin Nephrol. 2023 Jul;43(4):151436. doi: 10.1016/j.semnephrol.2023.151436. Epub 2023 Nov 10.


Hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) and thrombotic thrombocytopenia purpura (TTP) are rare diseases sharing a common pathological feature, thrombotic microangiopathy (TMA). TMA is characterized by microvascular thrombosis with consequent thrombocytopenia, microangiopathic hemolytic anemia and/or multiorgan dysfunction. In the past, the distinction between HUS and TTP was predominantly based on clinical grounds. However, clinical presentation of the two syndromes often overlaps and, the differential diagnosis is broad. Identification of underlying pathogenic mechanisms has enabled the classification of these syndromes on a molecular basis: typical HUS caused by Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC-HUS); atypical HUS or complement-mediated TMA (aHUS/CM-TMA) associated with genetic or acquired defects leading to dysregulation of the alternative pathway (AP) of complement; and TTP that results from a severe deficiency of the von Willebrand Factor (VWF)-cleaving protease, ADAMTS13. The etiology of TMA differs between pediatric and adult patients. Childhood TMA is chiefly caused by STEC-HUS, followed by CM-TMA and pneumococcal HUS (Sp-HUS). Rare conditions such as congenital TTP (cTTP), vitamin B12 metabolism defects, and coagulation disorders (diacylglycerol epsilon mutation) present as TMA chiefly in children under 2 years of age. In contrast secondary causes and acquired ADAMT13 deficiency are more common in adults. In adults, compared to children, diagnostic delays are more frequent due to the wide range of differential diagnoses. In this review we focus on the three major forms of TMA, STEC-HUS, aHUS and TTP, outlining the clinical presentation, diagnosis and management of the affected patients, to help highlight the salient features and the differences between adult and pediatric patients which are relevant for management.

Keywords: Hemolytic uremic syndrome; complement; thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Atypical Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome* / diagnosis
  • Child
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Mutation
  • Purpura, Thrombotic Thrombocytopenic* / diagnosis
  • Purpura, Thrombotic Thrombocytopenic* / therapy
  • Thrombotic Microangiopathies* / diagnosis
  • Thrombotic Microangiopathies* / etiology