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Severe delayed hypersensitivity reactions to IL-1 and IL-6 inhibitors link to common HLA-DRB1*15 alleles


Objectives Drug reaction with eosinophilia and systemic symptoms (DRESS) is a severe, delayed hypersensitivity reaction (DHR). We observed DRESS to inhibitors of interleukin 1 (IL-1) or IL-6 in a small group of patients with Still’s disease with atypical lung disease. We sought to characterise features of patients with Still’s disease with DRESS compared with drug-tolerant Still’s controls. We analysed human leucocyte antigen (HLA) alleles for association to inhibitor-related DHR, including in a small Kawasaki disease (KD) cohort.

Methods In a case/control study, we collected a multicentre series of patients with Still’s disease with features of inhibitor-related DRESS (n=66) and drug-tolerant Still’s controls (n=65). We retrospectively analysed clinical data from all Still’s subjects and typed 94/131 for HLA. European Still’s-DRESS cases were ancestry matched to International Childhood Arthritis Genetics Consortium paediatric Still’s cases (n=550) and compared for HLA allele frequencies. HLA association also was analysed using Still’s-DRESS cases (n=64) compared with drug-tolerant Still’s controls (n=30). KD subjects (n=19) were similarly studied.

Results Still’s-DRESS features included eosinophilia (89%), AST-ALT elevation (75%) and non-evanescent rash (95%; 88% involving face). Macrophage activation syndrome during treatment was frequent in Still’s-DRESS (64%) versus drug-tolerant Still’s (3%; p=1.2×10−14). We found striking enrichment for HLA-DRB1*15 haplotypes in Still’s-DRESS cases versus INCHARGE Still’s controls (p=7.5×10-13) and versus self-identified, ancestry-matched Still’s controls (p=6.3×10−10). In the KD cohort, DRB1*15:01 was present only in those with suspected anakinra reactions.

Conclusions DRESS-type reactions occur among patients treated with IL-1/IL-6 inhibitors and strongly associate with common HLA-DRB1*15 haplotypes. Consideration of preprescription HLA typing and vigilance for serious reactions to these drugs are warranted.

  • pharmacogenetics
  • biological therapy
  • arthritis
  • juvenile
  • Still's disease
  • adult-onset

Data availability statement

Data are available upon reasonable request. All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as supplementary information. The INCHARGE consortium dataset, which was previously published (Ombrello MJ et al PNAS 2015) and used in silico for this study, is available through Dr Michael Ombrello.

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