Elevated monocyte HLA-DR in pediatric secondary hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis: a retrospective study.


Hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (HLH) is a life-threatening condition, and its diagnosis may be challenging. In particular, some cases show close similarities to sepsis (fever, organ failure, and high ferritin), but their treatment, while urgent, differ: prompt broad-spectrum antibiotherapy for sepsis and immunosuppressive treatment for HLH. We questioned whether monocyte human leucocyte antigen (mHLA)-DR could be a diagnostic marker for secondary HLH (sHLH).


We retrospectively reviewed data from patients with a sHLH diagnosis and mHLA-DR quantification. mHLA-DR data from healthy children and children with septic shock, whose HLA-DR expression is reduced, from a previously published study were also included for comparison.


Six patients with sHLH had mHLA-DR quantification. The median level of monocyte mHLA-DR expression in patients with sHLH [79,409 antibodies bound per cell (AB/C), interquartile range (IQR) (75,734-86,453)] was significantly higher than that in healthy children and those with septic shock (29,668 AB/C, IQR (24,335-39,199), and 7,493 AB/C, IQR (3,758-14,659), respectively). Each patient with sHLH had a mHLA-DR higher than our laboratory normal values. Four patients had a second mHLA-DR sampling 2 to 4 days after the initial analysis and treatment initiation with high-dose corticosteroids; for all patients, mHLA-DR decreased to within or close to the normal range. One patient with systemic juvenile idiopathic arthritis had repeated mHLA-DR measurements over a 200-day period during which she underwent four HLH episodes. mHLA-DR increased during relapses and normalized after treatment incrementation.


In this small series, mHLA-DR was systematically elevated in patients with sHLH. Elevated mHLA-DR could contribute to sHLH diagnosis and help earlier distinction with septic shock.

Copyright © 2023 Raimbault, Monneret, Gossez, Venet, Belot, Zekre, Remy and Javouhey.

Overview publication

TitleElevated monocyte HLA-DR in pediatric secondary hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis: a retrospective study.
Issue nameFrontiers in immunology
Issue numberv14:1286749
AuthorsRaimbault S, Monneret G, Gossez M, Venet F, Belot A, Zekre F, Remy S & Javouhey E
Keywordscytokine storm, hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis, lymphocyte activation, macrophage activation syndrome, monocyte HLA-DR
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