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Anti-synthetase syndrome masquerading as recurrent pneumonia
  1. Ka U Lio and
  2. Si Li
  1. Medicine, Temple University Hospital, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Ka U Lio; kau.lio{at}


Anti-synthetase syndrome (ASS) is a rare inflammatory myopathy with a wide variety of clinical presentations. ASS-related interstitial lung disease (ASS-ILD) presents with rapid onset and progression, which could often be confused with other more common acute processes such as pneumonia, especially when ILD can be the sole manifestation. A woman in her 50s presented with recurrent dyspnoea for 2 months requiring multiple hospital admissions, and each time, she was diagnosed with multifocal pneumonia and treated with antibiotics. On admission, the evaluation revealed a markedly elevated creatine kinase level at 3258 U/L and a CT scan of the chest revealed worsening scattered ground-glass opacities. Given the concern for ILD as the cause of antibiotic failure, she underwent bronchoscopy with bronchoalveolar lavage which revealed non-specific interstitial pneumonia. A subsequent myositis panel revealed a positive anti-Jo-1 antibody, and she was diagnosed with ASS-ILD. She completed a course of intravenous immunoglobulin and methylprednisolone and experienced significant clinical improvement with the resolution of hypoxaemia and improved polyarthralgia.

ASS could often be misdiagnosed as other more common acute lung processes, as a clinically subtle course can escape detection given its rarity, as well as its non-specific and highly variable presentations. This case highlights the importance of early suspicion and consideration of performing specific autoantibody testing when evaluating patients with a suspicion of undifferentiated autoimmune condition.

  • Musculoskeletal and joint disorders
  • Interstitial lung disease
  • Rheumatology
  • Connective tissue disease

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  • Contributors The following author was responsible for drafting of the text, sourcing and editing of clinical images, investigation results, drawing original diagrams and algorithms, and critical revision for important intellectual content—KUL. The following authors gave final approval of the manuscript—KUL and SL.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Case reports provide a valuable learning resource for the scientific community and can indicate areas of interest for future research. They should not be used in isolation to guide treatment choices or public health policy.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.