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Chediak-Higashi Syndrome Treatment & Management

  • Author: Roman Janusz Nowicki, MD, PhD; Chief Editor: Dirk M Elston, MD  more...
Updated: Aug 24, 2015

Approach Considerations

Allogeneic transplantation from an HLA-matched sibling or from an unrelated donor or cord blood transplantation is the treatment of choice to correct the immunologic and hematologic manifestations of early-onset Chédiak-Higashi syndrome (CHS). Transplantation appears to be most successful when performed prior to the accelerated phase. Therefore, it would be of great value to differentiate patients who present with the childhood form of the disease from those who exhibit clinical phenotypes of adolescent and adult CHS, so as to prematurely enroll only the former ones in to a transplantation protocol.[9]


Medical Care


Early treatment of children with Chédiak-Higashi syndrome (CHS) is of paramount importance.

The only treatment that cures the hematologic and immunologic defects is allogenic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT), but this therapy does not prevent the progressive neurological dysfunction frequently observed during long-term follow up.[6, 15] The current standard of care is HSCT as soon as the diagnosis is confirmed and the accelerated phase has either been ruled out or is in remission. The most favorable outcome is achieved when HSCT is performed prior to development of the accelerated phase. If signs of the accelerated phase are present, hemophagocytosis must be brought into clinical remission before HSCT can be performed. Guidelines for treatment of the accelerated phase are the same as those for familial hemophagocytic lymphocytic lymphohistiocytosis. Combination therapy consists of etoposide, dexamethasone, and cyclosporine A. Remission is achieved in 75% of individuals within 8 weeks; however, relapses are common and response to treatment declines over time. Once remission occurs, prompt HSCT is recommended.

In patients with CHS and Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)–associated hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (HLH), the addition of rituximab has been reported to be a valuable adjunct to therapy, although in contrast to normal EBV infection, in HLH patients, the virus is also present in T cells. Other treatment options include the anti-CD52 monoclonal antibody alemtuzumab as a second-line therapy for pretransplantation treatment of HLH refractory to etoposide-based treatments.[3]

A conditioning regimen generally includes a combination of etoposide, busulfan, and cyclophosphamide.[16]

The duration of antimicrobial therapy to treat common infections should ideally be two to three times longer than standard recommendations. Granulocyte colony-stimulating factor (G-CSF) can be used to improve or correct neutropenia and decrease infections.

Careful dental hygiene can minimize gingival bleeding, and treatment with desmopressin and/or antifibrinolytic agents is effective in preventing bleeding after dental extraction or minor surgery in patients with storage pool disease or mild bleeding disorders. Platelet transfusions are particularly indicated in cases of severe uncontrolled bleeding, when prior treatments have been unsuccessful and/or in the presence of, or anticipation of, excessive traumatic or surgical bleeding.[9]

A subset of CHS patients presenting with the adult form of the disorder have a muted pigmentary or hematologic presentation while their neurologic symptoms dominate the disease. Patients with this pattern of manifestations might benefit, at least in the short term, from L-dopa, selegiline, trihexyphenidyl, biperiden, or amantadine treatment.[17, 9]


Surgical Care

Debridement and drainage of deep abscesses may be performed.



Increased awareness and the early identification of patients with the potentially lethal form of Chédiak-Higashi syndrome (CHS) convey unique therapeutic and prognostic implications that may improve outcomes. With a high degree of clinical suspicion, these patients should be immediately referred to a tertiary care center and treated by multidisciplinary teams including hematologists, pediatricians, dermatologists, biologists, neurologists, clinical immunologists, and social workers.

A neurologist should be consulted. Neurologic involvement, such as loss of deep tendon reflexes due to peripheral neuropathy, cerebellar ataxia, intellectual impairment, nystagmus, and the Babinski sign, is often observed in the course of CHS.

Hematologist consultation is necessary because the accelerated phase resembles lymphoma. Allogenic bone marrow or stem cell transplantation is the treatment of choice to correct the hematologic manifestation of the disease.

Ophthalmologists should be aware that progressive visual loss and the constriction of visual field can occur in patients with CHS as they grow older.[18]



Some activity limitations are advised because of the bruising problem and the bleeding tendency.

Contributor Information and Disclosures

Roman Janusz Nowicki, MD, PhD Professor and Chairman, Department of Dermatology, Venereology and Allergology, Medical University of Gdansk, Poland

Roman Janusz Nowicki, MD, PhD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Dermatology, European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology, International Society for Human and Animal Mycology

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Specialty Editor Board

Michael J Wells, MD, FAAD Associate Professor, Department of Dermatology, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, Paul L Foster School of Medicine

Michael J Wells, MD, FAAD is a member of the following medical societies: Alpha Omega Alpha, American Academy of Dermatology, American Medical Association, Texas Medical Association

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Robert A Schwartz, MD, MPH Professor and Head of Dermatology, Professor of Pathology, Pediatrics, Medicine, and Preventive Medicine and Community Health, Rutgers New Jersey Medical School; Visiting Professor, Rutgers University School of Public Affairs and Administration

Robert A Schwartz, MD, MPH is a member of the following medical societies: Alpha Omega Alpha, New York Academy of Medicine, American Academy of Dermatology, American College of Physicians, Sigma Xi

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Chief Editor

Dirk M Elston, MD Professor and Chairman, Department of Dermatology and Dermatologic Surgery, Medical University of South Carolina College of Medicine

Dirk M Elston, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Dermatology

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Additional Contributors

Jacek C Szepietowski, MD, PhD Professor, Vice-Head, Department of Dermatology, Venereology and Allergology, Wroclaw Medical University; Director of the Institute of Immunology and Experimental Therapy, Polish Academy of Sciences, Poland

Disclosure: Received consulting fee from Orfagen for consulting; Received consulting fee from Maruho for consulting; Received consulting fee from Astellas for consulting; Received consulting fee from Abbott for consulting; Received consulting fee from Leo Pharma for consulting; Received consulting fee from Biogenoma for consulting; Received honoraria from Janssen for speaking and teaching; Received honoraria from Medac for speaking and teaching; Received consulting fee from Dignity Sciences for consulting; .

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