Hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (HLH) embraces the frequently indistinguishable conditions of familial heinophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (FHL) and virus-associated hemophagocytic syndrome (VAHS). Without therapy FHL is invariably fatal, but successful therapy, including chemotherapy and immunotherapy followed by bone marrow transplantation (BMT), has been presented. To clarify the outcome of HLH in a developing country, with regard to clinical, laboratory, and genetic features, a nationwide study on all patients diagnosed with HLH in Oman during the 5-year period 1997-2001 was performed. In 5 patients and their families, mutational analysis was made. Thirteen patients with HLH were identified, 5 of whom had clinical manifestations of central nervous system involvement at presentation. In none of the patients could an infectious cause be identified. Ten children were referred late in the disease course, and the concern about starting chemotherapy before exclusion of an acute viral infection resulted in delayed treatment in some patients. Two children were started early on the HLH-94-therapy followed by successful BMT in one child. In the successfully transplanted child, the response to intrathecal hydrocortisone appeared to be better than standard therapy with intrathecal methotrexate. Finally, a novel missense mutation in the perforin gene was identified in 2 patients and their family members, causing a transition of proline to threonine at codon 89. Early diagnosis and treatment is important to improve outcome. Intrathecal corticosteroids may be considered, in addition to intrathecal methotrexate, in certain patients. Since the novel perforin mutation has been reported in only 2 patients from Oman, and since similar polymorphism in the sequencing data of the members of their families has been identified, a founder effect is possible in this population.
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