Familial Mediterranean Fever (FMF) is linked with the MEFV gene and is the commonest among monogenic autoinflammatory diseases, with high prevalence in the Mediterranean basin. Although the clinical presentation of FMF has a major role in diagnosis, genotype/phenotype correlations and the role of “benign” gene variants (as R202Q) appear highly variable and incompletely clear, making difficult to select the most effective strategy in the management of patients.
Aim of the present study was to investigate the clinical presentation and the genetic background in a homogenous cohort of patients from Apulia (south eastern Italy). We investigated 217 patients with a clinical suspect of autoinflammatory diseases, who were characterized for the occurrence of specific symptoms and with next generation sequencing by a 4-gene panel including MEFV, MVK, NLRP3 and TNFRSF1A. A genetic change was identified in 122 (53.7%) patients, with 161 different MEFV variants recorded in 100 individuals, 10 variants in NLRP3, and 6 each in TNFRSF1A and MVK.
The benign variant R202Q was largely prevalent (41.6% of all MEFV variants). When patients were selected according the number of pathogenic MEFV variants (0, 1, or 2 pathogenic variants), results failed to show significant links between the frequency of symptoms and the number of pathogenic variants. Only family history and Pras score (indicative for severity of disease) predicted the presence of pathogenic variants, as compared with carriers of variants considered of uncertain significance or benign.
Fever >38 °C and arthralgias appeared more frequently in R202Q-positive patients than in non-R202Q carriers. These two subgroups showed comparable duration of fever, occurrence of myalgia, abdominal and chest pain, Pras, and IFFS scores. In conclusion, results confirm that FMF manifests in mild form in non-middle eastern patients. This possibility partly affects the reliability of clinical criteria/scores. Furthermore, the presence of the R202Q variant might not be completely neutral in selected groups of patients.