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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Relief of pruritus and decreases in plasma histamine concentrations during erythropoietin therapy in patients with uremia.

BACKGROUND. The pathophysiologic aspects of pruritus in patients with chronic renal insufficiency are poorly understood, and there is no universally effective treatment. The improvement of pruritus in several patients receiving erythropoietin therapy raised the possibility that erythropoietin affects uremic pruritus directly. METHODS. We undertook a 10-week placebo-controlled, double-blind, crossover study in a group of patients receiving hemodialysis who had severe pruritus, to investigate the effects of recombinant human erythropoietin on their pruritus and plasma histamine levels. Twenty patients with uremia, of whom 10 had severe pruritus and 10 did not, received erythropoietin (36 units per kilogram of body weight three times weekly) and placebo in random order, each for five weeks. The severity of pruritus was scored weekly, and plasma histamine levels were measured at the beginning and end of each five-week period. RESULTS. Eight of the 10 patients with pruritus had marked reductions in their pruritus scores during erythropoietin therapy. The mean (+/- SE) pruritus score decreased from 25 +/- 3 to 6 +/- 1 in these patients. The pruritus returned within one week after the discontinuation of therapy. The improvement was not related to the change in hemoglobin level. These eight patients were successfully treated again with low doses of erythropoietin (18 units per kilogram three times weekly), and the effect has persisted for six months. The patients with pruritus had elevated plasma histamine concentrations (20.7 +/- 2.7 nmol per liter), as compared with the patients without pruritus (4.2 +/- 0.6 nmol per liter; P less than 0.001) and normal subjects (2.1 +/- 0.2 nmol per liter; P less than 0.001). Therapy with erythropoietin induced a decrease in plasma histamine concentrations in both groups of patients with uremia, and recurrences of pruritus after the discontinuation of erythropoietin were accompanied by increases in plasma histamine concentrations. CONCLUSIONS. Erythropoietin therapy lowers plasma histamine concentrations in patients with uremia and can result in marked improvement of pruritus.[1]


  1. Relief of pruritus and decreases in plasma histamine concentrations during erythropoietin therapy in patients with uremia. De Marchi, S., Cecchin, E., Villalta, D., Sepiacci, G., Santini, G., Bartoli, E. N. Engl. J. Med. (1992) [Pubmed]
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