Yonsei Med J.  2021 Mar;62(3):274-277. 10.3349/ymj.2021.62.3.274.

Cytomegalovirus-Associated Hemophagocytic Syndrome Diagnosed by Liver Biopsy in a Kidney Transplant Recipient

  • 1Departments of 1 Surgery and 2 Pathology, Ajou University School of Medicine, Suwon, Korea


Hemophagocytic syndrome (HPS) is a rare but potentially life-threatening disease in kidney transplant recipients, and is caused by systemic proliferation of macrophages actively phagocytizing other blood cells in the bone marrow, lymph nodes, and the spleen. Here, we report a 40-year-old male kidney transplant recipient who presented with fever, bicytopenia, and elevated liver enzymes 2 months after transplantation. Given that cytomegalovirus antigenemia and real-time polymerase chain reaction tests were positive, liver biopsy was performed under an assumption of cytomegalovirus-induced hepatitis. Hepatic histology revealed multifocal microabscess with cytomegalovirus inclusion bodies, marked Kupffer cell hyperplasia, and erythrophagocytosis by activated macrophages. As laboratory findings such as hyperferritinemia, elevated serum lactate dehydrogenase, low natural killer cell activity, and high soluble interleukin-2 receptor were also compatible with HPS, the recipient was diagnosed as having cytomegalovirus-induced hepatitis combined with reactive HPS. Following intravenous ganciclovir therapy with continuous administration of tacrolimus and corticosteroid, the symptoms resolved and laboratory findings were normalized. As far as we know, this is the first report of cytomegalovirus-induced hepatitis combined with reactive HPS in a kidney transplant recipient that is diagnosed by liver biopsy.


Cytomegalovirus; hemophagocytic syndrome; kidney transplantation
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