Objective: The objective of this study was to determine the cause of purpura fulminans, disseminated intravascular coagulation, or thrombosis in seven children with varicella. All children were found to have a lupus anticoagulant and acquired protein S deficiency. Thrombosis in five children was associated with presumed or documented infection with streptococcus.
Study design: Coagulation tests included determinations of the activated partial thromboplastin time, the prothrombin time, the dilute Russell viper venom time, the prothrombin F 1 + 2 fragment, the C4b-binding protein (C4b), total and free protein S antigen, and clotting activities of factors II, V, VII, and X and of protein C and protein S. Autoantibodies to phospholipids, cardiolipin, and protein S were determined in enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays.
Results: All children had a lupus anticoagulant and acquired protein S deficiency. Thrombosis in five children was associated with presumed or documented infection with streptococcus. All children transiently expressed free protein S deficiency, elevated levels of IgG, IgM, or both binding to protein S, the lupus anticoagulant, and increased concentration of the F 1+2 fragment. Four children also had antiphospholipid or anticardiolipin antibodies. In one child a purified IgG fraction cross-reacted with both protein S and a specific varicella antigen.
Conclusions: A subset of children with varicella infection, some of whom are coinfected with streptococcus, are prone to development of a lupus anticoagulant and an autoantibody to protein S, which results in acquired free protein S deficiency. Such children are at risk of having life-threatening thrombotic events.