T marneffei Infection: Risk Extends to Patients Without HIV

Research finds that the thermal dimorphic pathogenic fungus also can put patients without HIV at risk for fatality.


Patients with HIV/AIDs are vulnerable to Talaromyces marneffei ( T marneffei ) infection , formerly penicilliosis. But in recent years more cases have been seen in patients not infected with HIV, too. Most cases originate in Southeast Asia: 10% of patients with AIDS in Hong Kong and 30% of patients in North Thailand, for example, have T marneffei infections. But patients with AIDS and penicilliosis travel, as do other immunocompromised patients. Thus, the first reported case of a patient with long-standing pulmonary sarcoidosis who developed T marneffei infection may have significance for clinicians caring for people with, or without, HIV.

Most patients with T marneffei infection have fever, weight loss, and malaise. Subcutaneous abscesses and papulelike ulcers are common (sometimes the lesions are very small). Anemia, hepatosplenomegaly, lymphadenopathy, and diarrhea also are relatively common. However, while cough is a notable symptom, pneumonia is rare—even though the organism is inhaled.

The patient in this report, a native of Cangnan County (an endemic fungal area) in Southeast China, was admitted to the hospital with a 3-week history of daily hyperpyrexia and coughing sputum. When antibiotics did not help, a fungal culture revealed why: He had T marneffei infection. The clinicians say the preexisting pulmonary sarcoidosis covered the clinical features of T marneffei and initially misled them.

After 3 months of antifungal treatment, the patient’s physical condition improved. And the lung lesions were “markedly absorbed” after 3 months. The respiratory signs and skin lesions disappeared gradually after 8 days of treatment.

T marneffei infection is fatal if untreated. Early diagnosis and treatment with antifungals can be life saving.

Yu X, Miao K, Zhou C, et al. BMC Infect Dis . 2018;18(1):390.

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