INTRODUCTION: Haemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (HLH) in adults is characterised by toxic immune activation and a sepsis-like syndrome, leading to high numbers of undiagnosed cases and mortality rates of up to 68%. Early diagnosis and specific immune suppressive treatment are mandatory to avoid fatal outcome, but the diagnostic criteria (HLH-2004) are adopted from paediatric HLH and have not been validated in adults. Experimental studies suggest biomarkers to sufficiently diagnose HLH. However, biomarkers for the diagnosis of adult HLH have not yet been investigated.
METHODS AND ANALYSIS: The HEMICU (Diagnostic biomarkers for adult haemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis in critically ill patients) study aims to estimate the incidence rate of adult HLH among suspected adult patients in intensive care units (ICUs). Screening for HLH will be performed in 16 ICUs of Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin. The inclusion criteria are bicytopaenia, hyperferritinaemia (≥500 µg/L), fever or when HLH is suspected by the clinician. Over a period of 2 years, we expect inclusion of about 100 patients with suspected HLH. HLH will be diagnosed if at least five of the HLH-2004 criteria are fulfilled, together with an expert review; all other included patients will serve as controls. Second, a panel of potential biomarker candidates will be explored. DNA, plasma and serum will be stored in a biobank. The primary endpoint of the study is the incidence rate of adult HLH among suspected adult patients during ICU stay. Out of a variety of measured biomarkers, this study furthermore aims to find highly potential biomarkers for the diagnosis of adult HLH in ICU. The results of this study will contribute to improved recognition and patient outcome of adult HLH in clinical routine.