HJBs (Figure) are named after Henry Howell, an American physiologist who pioneered the use of heparin as an anti-coagulant and Justin Jolly, a French hematologist who filmed mitotic activity in cells. HJBs are nuclear remnants in circulating mature red blood cells which are usually pitted by the spleen under normal physiological conditions. They are often indicative of asplenia (either post-splenectomy or congenital absence) or hyposplenism associated with a variety of conditions, including sickle cell disease, autoimmune disorders, celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, HIV, cirrhosis, primary pulmonary hypertension, splenic irradiation, amyloidosis, sarcoidosis, bone marrow transplantation, and high-dose corticosteroid therapy1-3.
Patients with pneumonia and HJBs on peripheral smear may be hyposplenic and at risk of potentially serious infections, predominantly caused by encapsulated bacteria eg, Streptococcus pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae and Neisseria meningitidis3. Such patients should be immunized against these organisms, including sequential receipt of both conjugated and polysaccharide pneumococcal vaccines3,4.
Photo courtesy of Michael S. Abers, MD
- Di Sabatino, A, Carsetti R, Corazza G. Post-splenectomy and hyposplenic states. Lancet 2011;378:86–97.
- Brousse, V, Buffet P, Rees D. The spleen and sickle cell disease: the sick(led) spleen. Br J Haematol 2014;166: 165–176.
- Mathew H, Dittus C, Malek A, Negroiu A. Howell-Jolly bodies on peripheral smear leading to the diagnosis of congenital hyposplenism in a patient with septic shock. Clin Case Rep 2015;3:714-717.
- Kuchar E, Miśkiewicz K , Karlikowska M. A review of guidance on immunization in persons with defective or deficient splenic function. Br J Haematol 2015; 171:683-94. doi: 10.1111/bjh.13660, Epub 2015 Aug 28.
Contributed by Katarzyna Orlewska, Medical Student, Warszawski Uniwersytet Medyczny, Poland