What is pneumocystis pneumonia?
Pneumocystis pneumonia is a serious infection that causes inflammation and fluid buildup in your lungs and caused by the fungus Pneumocystis jirovecii. Pneumocystis jirovecii is one of the most frequent and severe infections in people with weakened immune systems, particularly people with HIV/AIDS. Although people with HIV/AIDS are less likely to get Pneumocystis jirovecii today than in recent years, Pneumocystis jirovecii is still a significant public health problem. This fungus is very common. Most people have successfully fought it by the time they’re 3 or 4 years old. Although it’s rare, Pneumocystis jirovecii can also affect other parts of your body, including lymph nodes, liver, and bone marrow.
How common is pneumocystis pneumonia?
This condition is quite uncommon. Some individual with weak immune system such as HIV/AIDS or organ transplants patients might have a higher risk of this condition.
However, it can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.
What are the symptoms of pneumocystis pneumonia?
The common symptoms of this condition are:
- Dry cough
- Shortness of breath
In people with weakened immune systems, pneumocystis pneumonia can be very serious, so it is important to see a doctor if you have these symptoms.
In HIV-infected patients, pneumocystis pneumonia usually presents sub-acutely, and symptoms include a low-grade fever. In HIV-uninfected patients, symptoms of pneumocystis pneumonia tend to develop more quickly and patients typically experience a high fever.
When should I see my doctor?
If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consulting with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.
What causes pneumocystis pneumonia?
Pneumocystis pneumonia is a form of pneumonia, caused by the yeast-like fungus Pneumocystis jirovecii. P jiroveci is now one of several organisms known to cause life-threatening opportunistic infections in patients with advanced HIV infection worldwide.
Scientists are still learning about how people get Pneumocystis jirovecii. Studies have shown that many people are exposed to the fungus as children, but they do not get sick because their immune systems are strong. Some healthy adults carry the fungus in their lungs and never develop symptoms of Pneumocystis jirovecii. However, if a person’s immune system stops working normally, the fungus can start causing symptoms.
What increases my risk for pneumocystis pneumonia?
There are many risk factors for this condition, such as:
- Weakened immunesystem (due to HIV/AIDS, cancer treatments, or organ transplants)
- HIV-exposed but uninfected children
- Immunosuppressive therapies, such as organ transplants
- Connective tissue diseases or chronic lung diseases
Diagnosis & treatment
The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.
How is pneumocystis pneumonia diagnosed?
If your doctor suspects that you may experience this condition, a physical examination will be performed and some tests will be also recommended by your doctor. Usually, a lab technician will look at the fluid or tissue from your lungs with a microscope to find traces of the fungus. Your doctor will get a sample by helping you cough up stuff or by using a special tool called a bronchoscope that goes into your airways through your mouth. Or your doctor can do a biopsy, taking a needle or a knife to remove a tiny bit of cells from your lung.
A test called PCR (polymerase chain reaction) makes copies of specific pieces of DNA, so it can find smaller amounts of the fungus in samples.
You might also get a chest X-ray, or blood tests to check for low oxygen levels.
How is pneumocystis pneumonia treated?
Recently, doctors prescribe a combination of two antibiotics, trimethoprim and sulfamethoxazole, or TMP/SMX or SXT (Bactrim, Cotrim, or Septra). Depending on how sick you are, you’ll get this in pills or through a needle in your vein (by IV) at the hospital.
Some other drugs your doctor might prescribe to fight the infection include:
- Dapsone (Aczone), sometimes with trimethoprim (Primsol) or pyrimethamine (Daraprim)
- Pentamidine (NubuPent, Pentam) that you breathe in through a machine called a nebulizer, maybe in a doctor’s office or a clinic (You could also get a shot if your infection is serious.)
- Atovaquone (Mepron) in a liquid that you take with food
- Corticosteroids can help when your Pneumocystis jirovecii is moderate to severe and you have low oxygen levels.
Lifestyle changes & home remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage pneumocystis pneumonia?
Unfortunately, there is no vaccine to prevent Pneumocystis jirovecii. Some groups of people who are at high risk of developing Pneumocystis jirovecii may need to take a medication called TMP-SMX to prevent the illness from occurring. If your doctor thinks you are at risk for developing Pneumocystis jirovecii, he or she might prescribe this medicine for you. TMP-SMX prophylaxis is currently recommended for:
- All HIV-infected patients with CD4 < 350 cells / µL
- Infants born to HIV-infected mothers
- Children with a history of Pneumocystis jirovecii
- Stem cell transplant patient
If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Pneumocystis pneumonia. http://www.webmd.com/hiv-aids/guide/aids-hiv-opportunistic-infections-pneumocystis-pcp-pneumonia#1 . Accessed February 7, 2017.
Pneumocystis pneumonia. https://www.cdc.gov/fungal/diseases/pneumocystis-pneumonia/index.html . Accessed February 7, 2017.
Pneumocystis pneumonia. http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/225976-overview . Accessed February 7, 2017.
Review Date: August 31, 2017 | Last Modified: August 31, 2017