Severe fever with thrombocytopenia syndrome (SFTS) is an emerging infectious zoonosis caused by the SFTS virus. Hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (HLH) is a life-threatening syndrome associated with excessive immune activation. Cytokine storms are often seen in both SFTS and HLH, resulting in rapid disease progression and poor prognosis. The aim of this study was to identify whether SFTS cases complicated by HLH are related to higher rates of mortality. Descriptive analysis of the frequency of clinical and laboratory data, complications, treatment outcomes, and HLH-2004 criteria was performed. Cases presenting with five or more clinical or laboratory findings corresponding to the HLH-2004 diagnostic criteria were defined as SFTS cases complicated by HLH. Eighteen cases of SFTS were identified during a 2-year study period, with a case-fatality proportion of 22.2% (4 among 18 cases, 95% confidence interval 9%-45.2%). SFTS cases complicated by HLH were identified in 33.3% (6 among 18 cases). A mortality rate of 75% (3 among 4 cases) was recorded among SFTS cases complicated by HLH. Although there were no statistically significant differences in outcomes, fatal cases exhibited more frequent correlation with HLH-2004 criteria than non-fatal cases [3/14 (21.4%) vs. 3/4 (75%), p=0.083]. In conclusion, the present study suggests the possibility that SFTS cases complicated by HLH are at higher risk of poor prognosis.
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