Serum neopterin levels as a diagnostic marker of hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis syndrome

Ibarra, M. F.; Klein-Gitelman, M.; Morgan, E.; Proytcheva, M.; Sullivan, C.; Morgan, G.; Pachman, L. M.; O'Gorman, M. R.

Clin Vaccine Immunol. 2011 Jan 29; 18(4):609-14


The objective of this study was to retrospectively evaluate the utility of serum neopterin as a diagnostic marker of hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (HLH). The medical records of patients diagnosed with HLH (familial and secondary) between January 2000 and May 2009 were reviewed retrospectively, and clinical and laboratory information related to HLH criteria, in addition to neopterin levels, was recorded. A group of 50 patients with active juvenile dermatomyositis (JDM) (who routinely have neopterin levels assessed) served as controls for the assessment of the accuracy, sensitivity, and specificity of neopterin as a diagnostic test for HLH. The Pearson correlation was used to measure the association between serum neopterin levels and established HLH-related laboratory data. Serum neopterin levels were measured using a competitive enzyme immunoassay. During the time frame of the study, 3 patients with familial HLH and 18 patients with secondary HLH were identified as having had serum neopterin measured (all HLH patients were grouped together). The mean neopterin levels were 84.9 nmol/liter (standard deviation [SD], 83.4 nmol/liter) for patients with HLH and 21.5 nmol/liter (SD, 10.13 nmol/liter) for patients with JDM. A cutoff value of 38.9 nmol/liter was 70% sensitive and 95% specific for HLH. For HLH patients, neopterin levels correlated significantly with ferritin levels (r = 0.76, P = 0.0007). In comparison to the level in a control group of JDM patients, elevated serum neopterin was a sensitive and specific marker for HLH. Serum neopterin has value as a diagnostic marker of HLH, and prospective studies are under way to further evaluate its role as a marker for early diagnosis and management of patients.

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