BACKGROUND: Diagnosing lymphocytic myocarditis (LM) is challenging because of the large variation in clinical presentation and the limitations inherent in current diagnostic tools. The objective of this study was to analyze infiltration of inflammatory cells in quadriceps skeletal muscle of LM patients and investigate the potential diagnostic value of assaying infiltrating inflammatory cells.
METHODS: Quadriceps muscle tissue, obtained at autopsy from control patients (n = 9) and LM patients (n = 21), was analyzed using immunohistochemistry for infiltration of lymphocytes (CD45), macrophages (CD68), neutrophilic granulocytes (myeloperoxidase), and several lymphocyte subtypes (CD3, CD4, CD8, CD20) and using polymerase chain reaction for a panel of myocarditis-associated viruses. Additionally, quadriceps muscle from mice with acute coxsackievirus B3-induced myocarditis and control mice was analyzed for presence of lymphocytes and virus.
RESULTS: In quadriceps muscle of LM patients the number of infiltrating lymphocytes were significantly increased and LM was diagnosed with specificity of 100% and sensitivity of 71%. Parvovirus B19 was the primary virus found in our patient groups, found in quadriceps tissue of 3 LM patients (although it was also found in 1 control patient). In the mice, enteroviral RNA was present in the quadriceps muscle, although enteroviral capsid proteins and lymphocyte infiltration were found primarily in the adipose tissue within and directly adjacent to the myocyte tissue, rather than in the myocyte tissue itself.
CONCLUSIONS: LM is associated with lymphocyte infiltration and viral presence in quadriceps muscle. This indicates that skeletal muscle biopsy/lymphocyte quantification might be a potential diagnostic tool for LM patients.