Pneumocystis jiroveci pneumonia

Definition

Pneumocystis jiroveci pneumonia is a fungal infection of the lungs. The disease used to be called Pneumocystis carini or PCP pneumonia.

Alternative Names

Pneumocystis pneumonia; Pneumocystosis; PCP; Pneumocystis carinii; PJP pneumonia

Causes

This type of pneumonia is caused by the fungus Pneumocystis jiroveci. This fungus is common in the environment and rarely causes illness in healthy people.

However, it can cause a lung infection in people with a weakened immune system due to:

Pneumocystis jiroveci was a rare infection before the AIDS epidemic. Before the use of preventive antibiotics for the condition, most people in the United States with advanced AIDS often developed this infection.

Symptoms

Pneumocystis pneumonia in people with AIDS usually develops slowly over days to weeks or even months, and is less severe. People with pneumocystis pneumonia who do not have AIDS usually get sick faster and are more severely ill.

Symptoms include:

Exams and Tests

Your health care provider will examine you and ask about your symptoms.

Tests that may be ordered include:

Treatment

Anti-infection medicines can be given by mouth (orally) or through a vein (intravenously), depending on how severe the illness is.

People with low oxygen levels and moderate to severe disease are often prescribed corticosteroids as well.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Pneumocystis pneumonia can be life threatening. It can cause respiratory failure that can lead to death. People with this condition need early and effective treatment. For moderate to severe pneumocystis pneumonia in people with HIV/AIDS, the short term use of corticosteroids has decreased the incidence of death.

Possible Complications

Complications that may result include:

When to Contact a Medical Professional

If you have a weakened immune system due to AIDS, cancer, transplantation, or corticosteroid use, contact your provider if you develop a cough, fever, or shortness of breath.

Prevention

Preventive therapy is recommended for:

References

Kovacs JA. Pneumocystis pneumonia. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 321.

Miller RF Walzer PD, Smulian AG. Pneumocystis species. In: Bennett JE, Dolin R, Blaser MJ, eds. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 269.


Review Date: 11/23/2021
Reviewed By: Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Associate Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Associate in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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