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Congenital neutropenia: diagnosis, molecular bases and patient management

Jean Donadieu1*, Odile Fenneteau2, Blandine Beaupain1, Nizar Mahlaoui3 and Christine Bellanné Chantelot4

Author Affiliations

1 Service d'Hémato Oncologie Pédiatrique Registre des neutropénies congénitales AP-HP Hopital Trousseau 26 avenue du Dr Netter F 75012 Paris, France

2 Laboratoire d'hématologie AP-HP Hôpital R Debré Boulevard Sérurier Paris, 75019, France

3 Unité d'Immuno-Hématologie et Rhumatologie pédiatriques, et Centre de référence des déficits Immunitaires Héréditaires (CEREDIH), Groupe Hospitalier Necker-Enfants Malades, Assistance Publique-Hôpitaux de Paris, Paris 75015, France

4 Département de Génétique, AP-HP Groupe Hospitalier Pitié- Salpêtrière, Université Pierre et Marie Curie, 47/83 Bd de l'Hôpital Bâtiment 10 Lapeyronie 75651 Paris Cedex 13, France

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Orphanet Journal of Rare Diseases 2011, 6:26  doi:10.1186/1750-1172-6-26

Published: 19 May 2011


The term congenital neutropenia encompasses a family of neutropenic disorders, both permanent and intermittent, severe (<0.5 G/l) or mild (between 0.5-1.5 G/l), which may also affect other organ systems such as the pancreas, central nervous system, heart, muscle and skin. Neutropenia can lead to life-threatening pyogenic infections, acute gingivostomatitis and chronic parodontal disease, and each successive infection may leave permanent sequelae. The risk of infection is roughly inversely proportional to the circulating polymorphonuclear neutrophil count and is particularly high at counts below 0.2 G/l.

When neutropenia is detected, an attempt should be made to establish the etiology, distinguishing between acquired forms (the most frequent, including post viral neutropenia and auto immune neutropenia) and congenital forms that may either be isolated or part of a complex genetic disease.

Except for ethnic neutropenia, which is a frequent but mild congenital form, probably with polygenic inheritance, all other forms of congenital neutropenia are extremely rare and have monogenic inheritance, which may be X-linked or autosomal, recessive or dominant.

About half the forms of congenital neutropenia with no extra-hematopoetic manifestations and normal adaptive immunity are due to neutrophil elastase (ELANE) mutations. Some patients have severe permanent neutropenia and frequent infections early in life, while others have mild intermittent neutropenia.

Congenital neutropenia may also be associated with a wide range of organ dysfunctions, as for example in Shwachman-Diamond syndrome (associated with pancreatic insufficiency) and glycogen storage disease type Ib (associated with a glycogen storage syndrome). So far, the molecular bases of 12 neutropenic disorders have been identified.

Treatment of severe chronic neutropenia should focus on prevention of infections. It includes antimicrobial prophylaxis, generally with trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole, and also granulocyte-colony-stimulating factor (G-CSF). G-CSF has considerably improved these patients' outlook. It is usually well tolerated, but potential adverse effects include thrombocytopenia, glomerulonephritis, vasculitis and osteoporosis. Long-term treatment with G-CSF, especially at high doses, augments the spontaneous risk of leukemia in patients with congenital neutropenia.

Neutropenia; Childhood; G-CSF; Severe congenital neutropenia; Adverse effects; ELANE; G6PC3; Shwachman Diamond Syndrome; Review