What is the pathophysiology of Kikuchi disease?

Updated: Nov 13, 2020
  • Author: John Boone, MD; Chief Editor: Sara J Grethlein, MD, FACP  more...
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Answer

The cause of Kikuchi disease is unknown, although infectious and autoimmune etiologies have been proposed. [20] The most favored theory proposes that Kikuchi disease results when one or more unidentified agents trigger a self-limited autoimmune process. Lymphadenitis results from apoptotic cell death induced by cytotoxic T lymphocytes. Some human leukocyte antigen (HLA) class II genes are more frequent in patients with Kikuchi disease, suggesting a genetic predisposition to the proposed autoimmune response. Case reports of Kikuchi disease associated with other autoimmune disorders, including Hashimoto thyroiditis, also support the hypothesis of an autoimmune etiology. [21]

Features that support a role for an infectious agent include the generally self-limited course of the disease and its frequent association with symptoms similar to those of upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs). Several viral candidates have been proposed, including cytomegalovirus, Epstein-Barr virus, [22] human herpesvirus, varicella-zoster virus, parainfluenza virus, parvovirus B19, and paramyxovirus. However, serologic and molecular studies have failed to link Kikuchi disease to a specific pathogen, and more than one pathogen may be capable of triggering the characteristic hyperimmune reaction leading to Kikuchi disease.

Several authors have reported an association between Kikuchi disease and SLE. [7, 9, 10, 12] {ref1239-INVALID REFERENCE} Kikuchi disease has been diagnosed before, during, and after a diagnosis of SLE was made in the same patient. Additionally, the histologic appearance of lymph nodes in patients with Kikuchi disease is similar to that of lymph nodes in patients with SLE lymphadenitis. Some authors have suggested that Kikuchi disease may represent a forme fruste SLE, but this theory has not been substantiated, and the association of Kikuchi disease with SLE, if any, remains unclear.

 


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