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Anakinra for Autoinflammatory Syndromes - An Overview

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5 min read


Anakinra, a biologic agent, has emerged as a promising therapeutic approach for managing these challenging disorders like autoinflammatory syndromes.

Written by

Dr. Vineetha. V

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Pandian. P

Published At February 6, 2024
Reviewed AtFebruary 6, 2024


Autoinflammatory syndromes are a group of rare and complex health problems where the body's defense system gets overly active and causes swelling and redness without any clear reason, such as germs or the body attacking itself. Unlike diseases where the body mistakenly fights its own cells, these syndromes mainly happen because of issues in the body's first line of defense against germs. In these syndromes, there is a problem in the body's instructions that control how the defense system works, making it act strangely and causing swelling to happen again and again in different parts of the body, like joints, skin, and organs. These swelling episodes can make people feel sick, with symptoms like high temperature, skin rashes, sore joints, and other problems.

What Are the Different Autoinflammatory Syndromes?

Here are some of the different autoinflammatory syndromes:

  1. Familial Mediterranean Fever (FMF): FMF is one of the most well-known autoinflammatory syndromes. It primarily affects people of Mediterranean descent and is characterized by recurrent episodes of fever, abdominal pain, chest pain, and joint inflammation. FMF is caused by mutations in the MEFV (Mediterranean fever) gene, which encodes a protein called pyrin involved in regulating inflammation.

  2. Cryopyrin-Associated Periodic Syndromes (CAPS): CAPS includes a group of disorders with varying degrees of severity. Conditions within CAPS include familial cold autoinflammatory syndrome (FCAS), Muckle-Wells syndrome, and neonatal-onset multisystem inflammatory disease (NOMID), also known as chronic infantile neurological cutaneous articular syndrome (CINCA). These syndromes result from mutations in the NLRP3 (Nucleotide-Binding Domain, Leucine-Rich–Containing Family, Pyrin Domain–Containing-3) gene, leading to excessive production of IL-1β and IL-18 cytokines and causing fever, skin rash, joint pain, and organ inflammation.

  3. Tumor Necrosis Factor Receptor-Associated Periodic Syndrome (TRAPS): TRAPS is characterized by recurrent episodes of fever, abdominal pain, rash, and muscle pain. It is caused by mutations in the TNFRSF1A gene, which lead to dysregulated tumor necrosis factor (TNF) signaling. The symptoms can vary in duration and severity.

  4. Hyper-IgD Syndrome (HIDS): HIDS, also known as mevalonate kinase deficiency (MKD), is characterized by periodic fever, abdominal pain, and skin rash. It is caused by mutations in the MVK gene, leading to the accumulation of certain metabolites and an exaggerated inflammatory response.

  5. Deficiency of IL-1 Receptor Antagonist (DIRA): DIRA is an extremely rare autoinflammatory disorder caused by mutations in the IL1RN (interleukin-1 receptor antagonist) gene. It leads to severe inflammation in the skin and bones shortly after birth due to the absence of interleukin-1 receptor antagonist, a protein that normally regulates IL-1 activity.

  6. Behcet's Disease: While not exclusively classified as an autoinflammatory syndrome, Behcet's disease involves recurrent inflammation affecting multiple body systems, including the mouth, eyes, skin, and joints. It is thought to have both autoinflammatory and autoimmune components.

What Is the Mechanism of Action of Anakinra?

Anakinra is a biological medication that is used in the treatment of certain autoimmune and autoinflammatory disorders. It is a recombinant form of the naturally occurring interleukin-1 receptor antagonist (IL-1Ra), a protein produced by the body to regulate the immune system and control inflammation. Interleukin-1 (IL-1) is a proinflammatory cytokine, which means it is involved in promoting inflammation in the body. This drug works by competitively binding to the receptors for IL-1 on cells, effectively blocking the action of IL-1 and preventing its pro-inflammatory effects. By doing so, it helps to dampen the exaggerated immune response seen in autoimmune and autoinflammatory conditions, where the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissues or causes recurrent episodes of inflammation without an apparent trigger.

This medication is typically administered through subcutaneous injections, where it is introduced into the fatty layer just below the skin. Anakinra has shown clinical efficacy in various conditions, particularly in autoinflammatory syndromes such as cryopyrin-associated periodic syndromes (CAPS) and familial Mediterranean fever (FMF). By targeting the underlying inflammatory pathways, Anakinra helps to alleviate symptoms such as fever, joint pain, rash, and other systemic manifestations associated with these disorders.

What Is the Role of Anakinra in Managing Systemic Autoinflammatory Syndromes?

Anakinra could be helpful for both identifying and managing patients with ongoing unclear systemic inflammation who have not responded to standard steroid or DMARD (disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs) treatments. Systemic autoinflammatory disorders (SAIDs) are characterized by recurrent or continuous inflammation that arises seemingly without cause and is a result of a disruption in the body's innate immune system. These conditions show up as unexplained fever, inflammation of body cavities, skin rashes, joint pain, arthritis, muscle pain, and other symptoms. While well-defined forms of SAIDs are linked to specific genes, about half of patients with SAID-like symptoms do not carry any known genetic mutations associated with autoinflammatory diseases. Some of these patients fit the profile of lesser-known forms of autoinflammatory diseases, such as adult-onset Still's disease (AOSD). Yet, some adults may show varying levels of symptoms and not entirely meet the criteria for AOSD. In this context, we refer to these patients as having undifferentiated SAID (uSAID), as their symptoms suggest an autoinflammatory disorder without fitting into established monogenic or polygenic forms.

Currently, there are not any specific tests or criteria to diagnose uSAID, nor are there lab tests to definitively differentiate sterile inflammation caused by innate immune system dysfunction from inflammation caused by other factors like infection. Moreover, diagnosing polygenic autoinflammatory diseases, even those with defined criteria like AOSD, is challenging. As a result, identifying uSAID requires a high level of suspicion and is often a diagnosis of exclusion. Consequently, patients may undergo multiple invasive tests, leading to delays in treatment, which typically involves nonspecific immunosuppression with corticosteroids and other DMARDs. Many monogenic SAIDs, especially cryopyrin-associated periodic syndromes (CAPS), are characterized by genetic issues in the IL-1β and IL-18 pathways, leading to increased release of proinflammatory cytokines. These conditions respond well to IL-1 antagonism.

Other monogenic autoinflammatory disorders, like TNF receptor-associated periodic syndrome (TRAPS), which are not directly linked to NLRP3 inflammasome issues, also respond to IL-1 antagonists, as do some less-defined polygenic autoinflammatory disorders like AOSD.

Based on these research studies, it is speculated that uSAIDs might also show positive responses to anakinra (Kineret). This could potentially serve as a rapid diagnostic and treatment tool for uSAIDs with IL-1 dysregulation. Anakinra therapy proved valuable for confirming the diagnosis and managing the underlying condition in these patients.

What Are the Difficulties and Factors to Think About When Using Anakinra for Treating Autoinflammatory Syndromes?

  • Efficacy and Response Variability: The effectiveness of Anakinra can vary widely among individuals. Some patients may experience significant symptom relief, while others might not respond adequately. Predicting which patients will benefit most from Anakinra can be challenging, and regular monitoring of treatment response is essential.

  • Administration and Dosage: Anakinra is typically administered through subcutaneous injections. Compliance with the injection regimen can be an issue for some patients, particularly if they have concerns about self-administration or needle phobia. Additionally, determining the optimal dosage for each patient might require dose adjustments based on clinical response and side effects.

  • Side Effects and Safety: While Anakinra is generally considered safe, there are potential side effects and safety concerns to be aware of. Clinicians must carefully weigh the potential benefits against these risks and monitor patients for any adverse events.

  • Cost and Access: Biologic therapies like Anakinra can be expensive, and their cost might present barriers to access for some patients, especially those without adequate insurance coverage. The financial burden associated with long-term treatment should be considered, and alternative treatment options explored if cost is a significant concern.

  • Combination Therapy: Autoinflammatory syndromes can be complex and multifaceted. Anakinra may need to be used in combination with other medications to achieve optimal disease control.

  • Duration of Treatment: The duration of Anakinra treatment can vary from patient to patient. Some individuals might require ongoing therapy, while others could experience disease remission and potentially discontinue treatment.

  • Long-Term Effects and Research Gaps: Long-term safety data for Anakinra use in autoinflammatory syndromes are still evolving. It is important to acknowledge that the impact of Anakinra over extended periods is not fully understood, and clinicians should remain vigilant for any emerging safety concerns.


Anakinra is a big step forward in helping people with autoinflammatory syndromes. It can make their lives better by reducing the tough symptoms of these disorders. Even though there are still difficulties, ongoing research, teamwork between doctors and researchers, and more knowledge about the genes and immune systems behind these syndromes can bring better treatments and results. As people learn more about these conditions, anakinra is really important and shows how personalized medicine can help with rare and hard-to-treat diseases.

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Dr. Pandian. P
Dr. Pandian. P

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