Clinical and histological discrepancies in diagnosis of ENL reactions classified by assessment of acute phase proteins SAA and CRP

Document Type



Pathology and Laboratory Medicine


Sixteen out of 45 (36%) leprosy patients with clinical features of acute erythema nodosum leprosum (ENL) did not show the characteristic presence of neutrophils (polymorphs) in histology of the ENL lesion. The acute-phase reactants, serum amyloid A (SAA) and C-reactive protein (CRP) which are systemic markers of inflammation, and IgM and IgG antibody to Mycobacterium leprae were determined in these patients in order to understand the differences in histological diagnosis. Both SAA and CRP were elevated in ENL patients, irrespective of the presence of polymorph infiltrates, as compared to nonreactional lepromatous patients, patients with histologically confirmed reversal reactions and endemic controls, indicating that all clinically diagnosed ENL patients had ongoing inflammatory reactions. On the other hand, IgM and IgG antibodies were significantly lower (> 70%) in ENL patients as compared to nonreactional lepromatous patients. When the two ENL groups [ENL-PMN+ve (positive for neutrophils) and ENL-PMN-ve (negative for neutrophils)] were compared, there were no significant differences in the mean SAA, IgM or IgG antibody concentrations, but CRP was eightfold lower in ENL-PMN-ve as compared to the ENL-PMN+ve group. This may indicate that the timing or modulation of the reaction was different in the two ENL groups. Thus, measurement of the acute-phase response and the ratio of SAA/CRP in particular are helpful in the clinical diagnosis of ENL reactions in leprosy.


International Journal of Leprosy and Other Mycobacterial Diseases