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News Note: NCI Scientists Identify a New Inflammatory Syndrome

  • Posted: June 29, 2010

NCI scientists have identified a new inflammatory condition called interleukin-6 syndrome caused by Kaposi’s sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV) in some people with HIV/AIDS. This syndrome will be added to three existing types of KSHV-linked illnesses in people with HIV/AIDS: Kaposi’s sarcoma, primary effusion lymphoma, and multicentric Castleman’s disease (MCD). KSHV, also called human herpesvirus-8 (HHV-8), has some genetic sequences that are similar to the human genes that produce the cytokine interleukin-6 (IL-6), which is responsible for immune signaling between cells.

Patients with MCD develop high fevers, wasting, and other inflammatory symptoms that occur when tumor cells overproduce cytokines, in particular, KSHV-associated IL-6. In the new syndrome discovered by Thomas Uldrick, M.D., Richard Little, M.D., Robert Yarchoan, M.D, and co-workers at NCI, patients had inflammatory symptoms similar to those in MCD and high viral IL-6 levels, but they did not have MCD. Based on this finding, physicians should be on the lookout for this new KSHV-associated interleukin-6 syndrome in patients with both HIV and either KS or KSHV infections who develop unexplained fevers and other inflammatory symptoms. The study findings are reported online in Clinical Infectious Diseases and will appear in print in the August 1, 2010, issue of the journal.