Category: Critical Care
Risk of Pneumocystis pneumonia (PCP) increases with degree of immunosuppression. If clinical suspicion exists (CD4 <200 with cough, pulmonary infiltrates, hypoxic respiratory failure), it is reasonable to initiate empiric therapy.
First line treatment is trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole (TMP-SMX) orally or IV for 21 days. IV pentamidine has equivalent efficacy to IV TMP-SMX but greater toxicity and is generally reserved for patients with severe PCP who cannot tolerate or are unresponsive to TMP-SMX.
Importantly, adjunctive corticosteroids have been shown to significantly improve outcomes (mortality, need for ICU admission, need for mechanical ventilation) in HIV-infected patients with moderate to severe PCP (defined by pO2 <70 mmHg on Room Air).
· Ideally steroids should be started BEFORE (or at the same time as) Pneumocystis-specific treatment to prevent/mitigate the sharp deterioration in lung function that occurs in most patients after initiation of PCP treatment. This is thought to be secondary to the intense inflammatory response to lysis of Pneumocystis organisms, which can cause an ARDS-like picture.
· Recommended dosing schedule: 40mg prednisone twice daily for 5 days, then 40mg once daily for 5 days, followed by 20mg once daily for the remaining 11 days of treatment.
Bottom Line: In patients with moderate to severe PCP (pO2 <70 mmHg on RA), don’t forget to initiate adjunctive corticosteroids early (at the same time you initiate empiric therapy for PCP).
Wang RJ, Miller RF, Huang L. Approach to Fungal Infections in Human Immunodeficiency Virus–Infected Individuals. Clin Chest Med. 2017;38(3):465-477. doi:10.1016/j.ccm.2017.04.008.
Bozzette SA, Sattler FR, Chiu J, et al. A Controlled Trial of Early Adjunctive Treatment with Corticosteroids for Pneumocystis carinii Pneumonia in the Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome. N Engl J Med. 1990;323(21):1451-1457. doi:10.1056/NEJM199011223232104.
Montaner JS, Lawson LM, Levitt N, Belzberg A, Schechter MT, Ruedy J. Corticosteroids prevent early deterioration in patients with moderately severe Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia and the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). Ann Intern Med. 1990;113(1):14-20. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2190515.