Scientists find genetic risk of hyperinflammatory disorder among H1N1 patients

Researchers recently discovered a genetic risk that makes people who contract H1N1 flu more likely to develop a hyperinflammatory disorder that can cause death.

The genetic mutations are connected to patients having an overactive immune response. The researchers suggest that people who have identical gene mutations and other kinds of infections may also be more susceptible to the hyperinflammatory illness, commonly called HLH, rHLH, or hemophagoytic lymphohistiocytosis.

HLH makes the immune system use inflammation to protect the body. Unfortunately, the inflammation is so overpowering that it begins to destroy vital organs. The researchers suggest that children should be screened to detect their HLH genes. This may help if the children develop a viral infection in the future.

"Viruses that cause robust immune responses may be more likely to trigger rHLH in genetically susceptible people," Dr. Randy Cron, a senior study investigator and physician in Pediatric Rheumatology at the University of Alabama-Birmingham (UAB) and Children's of Alabama, said. "Prenatal screening for mutations in common HLH-associated genes may find as much as 10 percent of the general population who are at risk for HLH when an inflammation threshold is reached from H1N1 or other infectious triggers."

The scientists from UAB, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and Children’s of Alabama published their results in The Journal of Infectious Diseases.

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Cincinnatti Children's Hospital Medical Center

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