The production of interleukin-6 (IL-6) and its possible relationship to host resistance and inflammatory response to Pneumocystis carinii infection were examined in mice with severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID mice). IL-6 activity was detected in the serum and lungs of P. carinii-infected mice but not in mice free of P. carinii. Moreover, the IL-6 levels in P. carinii-infected mice increased markedly after spleen cell reconstitution but then decreased to an undetectable level after the clearance of P. carinii. However, neutralization of IL-6 activity in spleen cell-reconstituted SCID mice by treatment with anti-IL-6 immunoglobulin G (IgG) resulted in no significant effect on the clearance of P. carinii (P > 0.05). Both the serum and lungs of treated mice contained an excess amount of anti-IL-6 IgG and lacked detectable IL-6. These results suggest that failure to inhibit the P. carinii clearance by anti-IL-6 treatment was not due to insufficient administration of antibody or incomplete neutralization of IL-6 activity. However, compared with mice receiving rat control IgG, mice treated with anti-IL-6 IgG had significantly higher numbers of neutrophils and lymphocytes (particularly CD8+ cells) in the lung lavage fluids (P < 0.05 for both) at day 19 after reconstitution. In addition, the levels of both total IgG (P < 0.001) and P. carinii-specific antibodies (P < 0.05) in the serum of mice treated with anti-IL-6 were significantly higher than those in control mice. These results indicate that although P. carinii infection causes both local and systemic production of IL-6 in SCID mice, IL-6 does not appear to play a crucial role in the clearance of P. carinii. However, it appears that during resolution of P. carinii pneumonia, IL-6 plays a role in the regulation of pulmonary inflammation and antibody responses.
Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP) is one of the most predominant opportunistic infectious diseases in patients with AIDS. Nested PCR has been described as a sensitive and specific tool for detecting P. carinii DNA in clinical specimens. Little is known about the correlation of positive PCR results and clinical evidence of PCP in patients with different forms of immunosuppression. One hundred and thirty-six sputum samples, 26 tracheal-bronchial aspirate samples, 35 bronchoalveolar lavage samples, and 11 lung biopsy samples from (i) human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-infected patients with AIDS, (ii) immunocompromised patients with leukemia or lymphoma, and (iii) immunocompetent control patients were investigated by a nested PCR amplifying DNA from the mitochondrial large subunit of P. carinii. All patients suffered from acute episodes of respiratory disease. The resulting data were correlated with clinical evidence of PCP. A high degree of association of positive P. carinii PCR results and clinical evidence of PCP in HIV-infected patients with AIDS was found. When calculated for bronchoalveolar lavage and lung biopsy samples, the positive and the negative predictive values of P. carinii PCR for PCP diagnosis in HIV-infected patients with AIDS were 1 and the specificity and the sensitivity were 100%. In contrast, in the group of patients with leukemia or lymphoma, the positive predictive value of the nested PCR for these materials was found to be as low as 0.09, the negative predictive value was 0.73, the specificity was 44.4%, and the sensitivity was 25.0%. No P. carinii DNA could be detected in specimens from immunocompetent patients. In summary, in contrast to patients with leukemia and lymphoma, nested PCR seems to be a sensitive and specific tool for PCP diagnosis in HIV-infected patients with AIDS.
In immunoblotting studies of Pneumocystis carinii surface proteins, we found that a secondary antibody, anti-human immunoglobulin G (IgG), recognized a 52-kilodalton (kDa) band in homogenates of P. carinii purified from human autopsy lungs and bronchoalveolar lavage fluids, even when serum as a source of primary antibody was omitted. The electrophoretic mobility of the 52-kDa band is identical to that of IgG heavy chains. In addition to affinity-purified, anti-human IgG, monoclonal antibodies specific for the Fab and Fc regions of human IgG recognized the 52-kDa band. To determine whether the 52-kDa band represents IgG bound to the surface of P. carinii, we treated intact organisms with Triton X-100 and acid in order to elute immunoglobulin from the surface of P. carinii. After purification over a protein G column, the eluate comigrated with human IgG, was recognized by anti-IgG, and bound to discrete bands with molecular sizes of 65 to 70, 60, 50, and 35 kDa in purified, rat-derived P. carinii. To confirm the presence of human IgG on the surface of P. carinii, we performed immunocytochemical and immunoelectron microscopic studies. Staining of intact P. carinii aggregates by anti-human IgG was pronounced and was abolished by acid treatment. IgA was also present. Ultrastructural studies showed the presence of IgG on the cyst wall and on fine membranous structures and vesicles adjacent to cysts. We conclude that the surface of P. carinii is coated with human IgG. The close association of human IgG with P. carinii may have implications for the pathogenesis of P. carinii pneumonia in acquired immunodeficiency syndrome.
The relationship between tissue inflammation and clearance of the opportunistic pathogen Pneumocystis carinii is poorly understood. We asked whether the anti-inflammatory cytokine interleukin-10 (IL-10) is released during the host response to infection with P. carinii and whether local delivery of the IL-10 gene could suppress tissue inflammatory responses without compromising clearance of infection. Control and CD4-depleted mice were inoculated with P. carinii, and at serial intervals after inoculation, lung tissue was assayed for IL-10 by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. We found that IL-10 was released in lung tissue in control mice and was present in higher concentrations in CD4-depleted mice with progressive infection. Control and CD4-depleted mice were then pretreated with 109 PFU of intratracheally administered adenoviral vector containing the viral IL-10 gene or the luciferase gene followed by inoculation with P. carinii. Pretreatment with viral IL-10 did not alter clearance of infection in control mice or severity of infection in CD4-depleted mice but did decrease tissue inflammation. We then asked whether gene transfer of viral IL-10 could decrease tissue inflammation during immune reconstitution. In these experiments, immunodeficient scid mice were inoculated with P. carinii and were heavily infected after 4 weeks. When these mice are immunologically reconstituted by intravenous administration of spleen cells from normal mice, a hyperinflammatory reaction developed in lung tissue, associated with high mortality. In comparison to control mice, mice treated with viral IL-10 prior to reconstitution showed significantly decreased lung wet weight, bronchoalveolar lavage fluid (BALF) lactate dehydrogenase, and BALF neutrophils. In contrast, infection intensity, as measured by PCR for P. carinii rRNA, was unchanged between the IL-10 and luciferase groups. Survival was also improved in the IL-10-treated mice. We conclude that release of IL-10 is part of the host response to infection with P. carinii and that gene therapy with viral IL-10 can lessen excessive tissue inflammation without altering pathogen clearance. In the setting of immune reconstitution and P. carinii pneumonia, pretreatment with the viral IL-10 gene decreases excessive tissue inflammation and improves survival. These results are relevant to acute respiratory failure after initiation of antibiotic treatment for human P. carinii pneumonia and to immune reconstitution syndromes in human immunodeficiency virus-positive patients started on highly active antiretroviral therapy.
The detection of Pneumocystis carinii DNA by PCR was compared with routine cytologic staining techniques (CYT). A total of 284 clinical respiratory specimens, including 137 bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL), 63 bronchoalveolar washing, 63 sputum, and 21 induced sputum samples, obtained from patients with or at high risk for human immunodeficiency virus infection were evaluated. Eighty specimens were positive by PCR, and 69 were positive by CYT. PCR was able to detect P. carinii in more bronchoalveolar washing specimens (15 versus 11) and in comparable BAL specimens (53 versus 54) compared with CYT. PCR was particularly more sensitive than CYT in detecting P. carinii in expectorated sputum (12 versus 4 samples). Of the 19 patients whose respiratory specimens were positive for P. carinii by PCR but negative by CYT, 5 had P. carinii pneumonia (PCP) confirmed by subsequent BAL and transbronchial or mediastinal lymph node biopsy and 9 had a clinical course highly suggestive of acute PCP. Eleven (58%) of the 19 patients with discordant PCR and CYT results had received prior anti-PCP prophylaxis. In this clinical setting in particular and in the evaluation of sputum specimens, the ability of PCR to detect a low parasitic load suggests that this technique may become an important additional tool, along with current cytological methods, for the detection of P. carinii.
AIM: To compare the results of DNA amplification by the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) with immunofluorescence staining for detecting Pneumocystis carinii in bronchoalveolar lavage specimens taken from symptomatic HIV seropositive patients with suspected P carinii pneumonia (PCP). METHODS: Bronchoalveolar lavage specimens were obtained from 28 symptomatic HIV seropositive patients. Specimens were examined for P carinii using immunofluorescence, and by DNA amplification with PCR to obtain results on gel electrophoresis (gel) and a more sensitive Southern hybridisation (blot) technique. Specimens positive by immunofluorescence and gel electrophoresis were serially diluted to a 10(-6) concentration and each dilution strength tested for P carinii using PCR to compare quantitatively immunofluorescence with PCR. RESULTS: Of the 28 specimens analysed, 18 were negative for P carinii by both immunofluorescence and PCR, two were positive only by the blot technique of PCR, four were equivocally positive and four unequivocally positive by immunofluorescence. Three of the four equivocally positive patients tested by immunofluorescence were negative for P carinii by PCR, although one was positive by PCR (blot) technique. This patient had clinically confirmed PCP. Of the four unequivocally positive patients tested by immunofluorescence, three were gel and blot positive by PCR and had PCP clinically, but one was negative by both gel and blot techniques, although the patient certainly had PCP on clinical grounds. This patient had received nine days of treatment with high dose co-trimoxazole before bronchoalveolar lavage specimens were obtained. The three specimens positive by gel and blot techniques remained gel positive down to dilutions of between 10(-4) and 10(-6). CONCLUSIONS: PCR results may become negative soon after starting treatment for PCP. Specimens should therefore be taken before, or soon after, starting treatment. PCR seems to be between 10(4) and 10(6) times more sensitive than immunofluorescence.
The possible transmission of Pneumocystis carinii f. sp. hominis from patients with P. carinii pneumonia to asymptomatic health care workers (HCW), with or without occupational exposure to human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-infected patients with P. carinii pneumonia, was examined. HCW in a specialist inpatient HIV-AIDS facility and a control group in the general medical-respiratory service in the same hospital provided induced sputum and/or nasal rinse samples, which were analyzed for the presence of P. carinii f. sp. hominis DNA by using DNA amplification (at the gene encoding the mitochondrial large subunit rRNA [mt LSU rRNA]). P. carinii f. sp. hominis DNA was detected in some HCW samples; those with the closest occupational contact were more likely to have detectable P. carinii DNA. P. carinii DNA was detected in one HCW who carried out bronchoscopy over a 2-year period. P. carinii-positive samples were genotyped by using DNA sequence variations at the internal transcribed spacer (ITS) regions of the nuclear rRNA operon, along with bronchoalveolar lavage samples from patients with P. carinii pneumonia hospitalized at the same time. Genotyping identified 31 different P. carinii f. sp. hominis ITS genotypes, 26 of which were found in the patient samples. Five of the eight ITS genotypes detected in HCW samples were not observed in the patient samples. The results suggested that HCW in close occupational contact with patients who had P. carinii pneumonia may have become colonized with P. carinii. Carriage was asymptomatic and did not result in the development of clinical disease.
A collaborative study was undertaken at two institutions to assess the performance of a direct fluorescent-antibody stain for the detection of Pneumocystis carinii in respiratory specimens from patients with known or suspected human immunodeficiency virus type 1 infections. A total of 163 specimens (125 induced sputa, 37 bronchoalveolar lavage fluids, and 1 tracheal aspirate) from 124 patients were examined by using modified Giemsa (Diff-Quik; Baxter American Scientific Products, Chicago, Ill.) and direct fluorescent-antibody stains. A total of 73 specimens contained P. carinii, which was detected in 66 (92%) of the specimens by using the modified Giemsa and in 71 (97%) of the specimens by using the fluorescent-antibody stain. One bronchoalveolar lavage fluid specimen in which P. carinii was detected only with the fluorescent-antibody stain was determined to be a false-positive based on subsequent clinical evaluation of the patient. Although the overall time for processing and examining specimens stained with either stain was not significantly different for those specimens containing P. carinii, considerably less time was required for microscopic examination of those fluorescent-antibody-stained specimens lacking P. carinii.
We report on the development of a rapid nested PCR protocol for the detection of Pneumocystis carinii DNA in bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) specimens in which the protocol included the use of a commercially available DNA extraction kit (GeneReleaser). GeneReleaser enabled us to obtain amplification-ready DNA within 20 min without requiring the purification of the DNA. The nested PCR was performed with the primers pAZ102-E, pAZ102-H, and pAZ102-L2 (A. E. Wakefield, F. J. Pixley, S. Banerji, K. Sinclair, R. F. Miller, E. R. Moxon, and J. M. Hopkin, Lancet 336:451-453, 1990.). Results were obtained in about 4 h with the adoption of denaturation, annealing, and extension steps shortened to 20 seconds. The sensitivity of the nested PCR was tested with a P. carinii cyst suspension and was found to be less than one cyst (one to eight nuclei). The detection limit was the same with the use of GeneReleaser or proteinase K-phenol chloroform for DNA extraction. The nested PCR assay was prospectively compared with staining with Giemsa and methenamine silver stains for the detection of P. carinii in 127 BAL samples from 105 human immunodeficiency virus-infected patients investigated for acute respiratory illness. Twenty-five BAL specimens (20%) were positive by staining and the nested PCR and 25 (20%) were negative by staining and positive by the nested PCR. These 25 BAL specimens with conflicting results were obtained from 23 patients, 82% of whom were receiving prophylactic therapy against P. carinii pneumonia (PCP). Only two patients were diagnosed with possible PCP. The final diagnosis was not PCP for 20 patients who were considered to be colonized or to have a low level of infection. This colonization is not of clinical importance but is of epidemiological importance. Our rapid, simple, and sensitive amplification protocol may be performed in clinical laboratories for the routine diagnosis of PCP with BAL specimens.
Diagnosis of pneumocystis pneumonia is based on identifying Pneumocystis carinii cytochemically in material from the lung. The silver methenamine staining methods most commonly used are technically difficult and lack specificity. The diagnostic value of immunocytological identification of the parasite was evaluated by using mouse monoclonal antibody 3F6, specific for human pneumocystis, to identify P carinii in bronchoalveolar lavage fluid and sputum by immunofluorescence and was compared with that of other variables. Bronchoalveolar lavage was performed on 25 patients positive for HIV antibody with clinically suspected pneumocystis pneumonia and 40 patients negative for HIV antibody who presented with interstitial disorders of the lung. Lavage fluid showed pneumocystis only in the patients positive for antibody, the parasite being detected in 19 by immunofluorescence and in 17 by a modified silver methenamine staining method. Chest x ray films obtained at the time of bronchoscopy showed interstitial or alveolar shadowing in 17 of the 19 patients, but clinical symptoms and the presence of antibodies to pneumocystis did not seem to be predictive. Sputum samples were collected during 43 episodes of clinically suspected pneumocystis pneumonia in patients positive for HIV antibody. Pneumocystis was detected consistently more commonly by immunofluorescence than the silver strain in sputum collected routinely and induced by inhalation of saline. In 17 patients bronchoalveolar lavage followed sputum collection, and the sensitivity of detection of pneumocystis in immunofluorescence in sputum compared with lavage fluid was 57% (8/14). Immunofluorescence was suitable for specimens fixed in ethanol and seemed highly specific and more sensitive than the standard cytochemical methods for identifying pneumocystis.
Pneumocystis carinii remains an important and potentially fatal cause of opportunistic pneumonia. Animal studies reveal that substantial quantities of surfactant protein D (SP-D) accumulate in the airspaces during P. carinii pneumonia and are particularly abundant in aggregates of organisms. Due to the multimeric structure of SP-D, we hypothesized that SP-D mediates aggregation of the organism. From previous clinical studies it is known that aggregated organisms are conspicuous in sections of lung tissue and bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) fluids of humans with active P. carinii pneumonia. Herein, we observe that SP-D levels increased at least fourfold in BAL fluids of patients with P. carinii pneumonia. Next, a spectrophotometric sedimentation assay was developed to assess the aggregation of P. carinii in vitro by SP-D. P. carinii organisms were first stripped with glutathione to remove bound SP-D and subsequently incubated in the presence of SP-D and 2 mM calcium. P. carinii incubated with natural SP-D (10 μg/ml) containing dodecamers and higher-order forms exhibited aggregation and enhanced sedimentation compared to that of glutathione-stripped P. carinii. Aggregation was also enhanced by the concentrated supernatant of rat BAL fluid, and this effect was abolished by the selective removal of SP-D from the lavage fluid. P. carinii aggregation was reduced by maltose, mannose, and EDTA, consistent with the role of the SP-D C-type lectin domain (CRD) in the aggregation event. Comparisons of different molecular forms of SP-D showed that dodecamers—but not trimeric subunits—mediate optimal aggregation of P. carinii. Aggregation of P. carinii by SP-D was shown to be responsible for the impaired phagocytosis of the organisms by alveolar macrophages. Thus, SP-D-mediated aggregation of P. carinii may represent one means by which the organism avoids elimination by the host.
BACKGROUND: An extrahuman reservoir of human pathogenic Pneumocystis carinii remains unknown. Host to host transmission has been described in animal studies and in cluster cases among immunodeficient patients. P carinii DNA has recently been detected in air filters from inpatient and outpatient rooms in departments of infectious diseases managing patients with P carinii pneumonia (PCP), suggesting the airborne route of transmission. Exposure of staff to P carinii may occur in hospital departments treating patients with PCP. METHODS: Exposure to P carinii was detected by serological responses to human P carinii by ELISA, Western blotting, and indirect immunofluorescence in 64 hospital staff with and 79 staff without exposure to patients with PCP from Denmark and Sweden. DNA amplification of oropharyngeal washings was performed on 20 Danish staff with and 20 staff without exposure to patients with PCP. RESULTS: There was no significant difference in the frequency or level of antibodies to P carinii between staff exposed and those unexposed to patients with PCP. None of the hospital staff had detectable P carinii DNA in oropharyngeal washings. CONCLUSIONS: There is no difference in antibodies and no detectable P carinii DNA in oropharyngeal washings, which suggests that immunocompetent staff treating patients with PCP are not a potentially infectious source of P carinii for immunocompromised patients.
Aim—To compare the techniques and results of a nested PCR and an immunofluorescence assay (IFA) for the detection of Pneumocystis carinii infection; to consider the role of the nested PCR in the diagnosis of P carinii pneumonia (PCP).
Methods—Serial dilutions of two known P carinii positive samples were tested by IFA and PCR to determine their relative sensitivities. Seventy eight respiratory samples (15 from 11 patients with HIV infection/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) and 63 from 42 patients with other forms of immunodeficiency) were tested using both assays, and the costs and technical requirements of each assay were assessed.
Results—The PCR had a greater relative sensitivity over the IFA of 2 × 101 to 2 × 103 fold in a postmortem lung sample and 2 × 105 to 2 × 106 fold in a bronchoalveolar lavage sample from a patient with PCP. P carinii was detected in all 15 samples from the patients with HIV/AIDS by both IFA and PCR. Of the 63 samples from the patients with immunodeficiencies other than HIV/AIDS, the PCR was more sensitive than IFA.
Conclusions—The nested PCR is a more sensitive assay than the IFA. It may be useful in the diagnosis of PCP in patients with immunodeficiencies other than HIV/AIDS. Similarly, PCR may be of benefit for this patient group as less invasive specimens are needed. PCR has an increasing role to play in the diagnosis of PCP in the routine laboratory.
Pneumocystis carinii; PCR; immunofluorescence assay; acquired immunodeficiency syndrome
The opportunistic pathogen Pneumocystis carinii causes
pneumonia (P. carinii pneumonia, or PCP) in
immunocompromised individuals such as AIDS patients. Rat-derived
P. carinii carinii organisms have distinct sterols which
are not synthesized by mammals and not found in other microbes
infecting mammalian lungs. The dominant sterol present in the organism
is cholesterol (which is believed to be scavenged from the host), but
other sterols in P. carinii carinii have an alkyl group at
C-24 of the sterol side chain (C28 and C29
24-alkylsterols) and a double bond at C-7 of the nucleus. Recently,
pneumocysterol (C32), which is essentially lanosterol with
a C-24 ethylidene group, was detected in lipids extracted from a
formalin-fixed human P. carinii-infected lung, and its
structures were elucidated by gas-liquid chromatography, mass
spectrometry, and nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometry in
conjunction with analyses of chemically synthesized authentic
standards. The sterol composition of isolated P. carinii
hominis organisms has yet to be reported. If P.
carinii from animal models is to be used for identifying
potential drug targets and for developing chemotherapeutic approaches
to clear human infections, it is important to determine whether the
24-alkylsterols of organisms found in rats are also present in
organisms in humans. In the present study, sterol analyses of P.
carinii hominis organisms isolated from cryopreserved human
P. carinii-infected lungs and from bronchoalveolar lavage
fluid were performed. Several of the same distinct sterols (e.g.,
fungisterol and methylcholest-7-ene-3β-ol) previously identified in
P. carinii carinii were also present in organisms isolated
from human specimens. Pneumocysterol was detected in only some of the
Although PCR detection of Pneumocystis carinii DNA has been described, little is known about the sensitivity or specificity of the assay in routine laboratory practice. We had the unique opportunity to use a bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) specimen bank with samples for which the direct examination results for P. carinii were known. DNA purified from 129 selected specimens was amplified by using the primers described previously (A. E. Wakefield, F. J. Pixley, S. Banerji, K. Sinclair, R. F. Miller, E. R. Moton, and J. M. Hopkin, Mol. Biochem. Parasitol. 43:69-76, 1990). Of the 129 specimens, 37 were positive for P. carinii by direct examination. All 37 specimens were positive for P. carinii by PCR, yielding a 100% sensitivity and 100% negative predictive value for the assay. An additional 23 specimens were repeatedly positive for P. carinii by PCR but were not positive by direct examination. Review of the patient charts for these specimens with discordant results demonstrated that five of the patients were actually positive for P. carinii, as determined by either biopsy or examination of repeat or prior BAL specimens. A response to empiric therapy for P. carinii pneumonia was seen in an additional two patients. Of the remaining specimens, 8 produced no significant isolates other than P. carinii, while 12 contained culture-confirmed significant respiratory pathogens in addition to P. carinii (two fungal, nine bacterial, and one viral pathogen). Cytomegalovirus, which was of unknown significance, was isolated from 16 additional specimens. Overall, the specificity of the PCR assay was 79.3% compared to the results of direct examination. We hypothesized that the apparently poor specificity of the PCR assay was due to the increased sensitivity of the assay compared to that of direct examination. The sensitivity of the PCR assay was therefore assessed with BAL specimens containing P. carinii cysts. Serial dilutions of this preparation were evaluated by direct examination and PCR. PCR was found to be 100-fold more sensitive than direct examination, which detected one to two cysts per amplification. No false-positive results were detected in controls containing no DNA or by using target DNA from various fungal, viral, or bacterial respiratory pathogens. We conclude that PCR detection of P. carinii in BAL specimens is very sensitive and should be considered for patients whose specimens do not yield a diagnosis. The increased sensitivity of the PCR assay may help to identify those patients with low-titer infections who might benefit from directed antibiotic therapy for P. carinii and would otherwise be missed by direct examination alone.
To evaluate the risk of a nosocomial spread of Pneumocystis carinii f. sp. hominis (P. carinii hominis), air filter samples from rooms of P. carinii pneumonia (PCP) patients, adjacent corridors, and other hospital environments have been investigated for the presence of P. carinii hominis. Amplified DNA from air filters and sputum or bronchoalveolar lavage samples from the PCP patients have been genotyped with the P. carinii hominis genes of the mitochondrial large-subunit (mtLSU) rRNA and the internal transcribed spacers (ITS1 and ITS2) of the rRNA. Genotypes of the two loci were identified by direct sequencing, and for site 85 of the mtLSU locus, three allele-specific PCR assays were used. P. carinii hominis DNA was identified in the air of five of seven PCP patient rooms and in the air of two of four air filtrations from the ward corridors. The P. carinii hominis genotypes were the same in four of the five room air samples as those in the corresponding patients, suggesting a risk of person-to-person transmission of P. carinii hominis from PCP patients. Three of 16 air samples collected in infectious disease wards without the presence of PCP patients and one sample from a cardiology unit in a separate hospital building were also positive, which further strengthens the possibility of acquisition of P. carinii hominis from the environment.
We developed a modified double-antibody sandwich enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) that detected relatively low concentrations of known Pneumocystis carinii antigen added to buffer or rat sera. Artificial immunization-derived polyclonal rabbit anti-P. carinii antibody was used on the solid phase to capture the antigen. Infection-derived (after P. carinii pneumonia) polyclonal rat anti-P. carinii antibody or a mixture of five murine monoclonal antibodies was used as the antigen detector antibody. Rabbit anti-rat immunoglobulin G antibody or goat anti-mouse immunoglobulin G antibody conjugated to alkaline phosphatase was used as the final antibody. After standardization and optimization of the various reactants in this ELISA system, approximately 53 ng of known P. carinii antigen per ml suspended in phosphate-buffered saline-Tween 20 buffer or 210 ng of antigen per ml suspended in normal rat serum diluted 1:4 could be detected. In addition, an indirect ELISA for P. carinii antibody measurement was developed, using as the antigen a soluble supernatant from a sonicated preparation of Percoll-purified whole cysts and trophozoites to coat the solid phase. Limited studies with sera from a small number of caesarian-obtained, barrier-sustained rats from Charles River Breeding Laboratories, Inc., and the National Institutes of Health and sera from normal and heavily infected rats indicated that the caesarian-obtained, barrier-sustained rats had negligible levels of antibody. The normal and heavily infected rats had variable antibody titers. A significantly high level of P. carinii antigenemia was detected in only 2 (11%) of 18 heavily infected rats. Extensive studies of the P. carinii pneumonia rat model with the ELISA did not reveal significant serum P. carinii antigenemia during the acute stage of infection. However, soluble P. carinii antigen was detected by the ELISA and Western blot assays in the supernatant of lavage fluid after centrifugation to sediment intact organisms. As expected, P. carinii antigens were detected by these assays in the lavage pellet recovered after centrifugation. In conclusion, the antigen assay used in this study detected P. carinii antigen in lung lavage but failed to detect P. carinii antigen in rat serum during the acute phase of infection.
We have amplified by PCR Pneumocystis carinii cytoplasmic small-subunit rRNA (variously referred to as 16S-like or 18S-like rRNA) genes from DNA extracted from bronchoalveolar lavage and induced sputum specimens from patients positive for P. carinii and from infected ferret lung tissue. The amplification products were cloned into pUC18, and individual clones were sequenced. Comparison of the determined sequences with each other and with published rat and partial human P.carinii small-subunit rRNA gene sequences reveals that, although all P. carinii small-subunit rRNAs are closely related (approximately 96% identity), small-subunit rRNA genes isolated from different host species (human, rat, and ferret) exhibit distinctive patterns of sequence variation. Two types of sequences were isolated from the infected ferret lung tissue, one as a predominant species and the other as a minor species. There was 96% identity between the two types. In situ hybridization of the infected ferret lung tissue with oligonucleotide probes specific for each type revealed that there were two distinct strains of P. carinii present in the ferret lung tissue. Unlike the ferret P. carinii isolates, the small-subunit rRNA gene sequences from different human P. carinii isolates have greater than 99% identity and are distinct from all rat and ferret sequences so far inspected or reported in the literature. Southern blot hybridization analysis of PCR amplification products from several additional bronchoalveolar lavage or induced sputum specimens from P. carinii-infected patients, using a 32P-labeled oligonucleotide probe specific for human P. carinii, also suggests that all of the human P. carinii isolates are identical. These findings indicate that human P. carinii isolates may represent a distinct species of P. carinii distinguishable from rat and ferret P. carinii on the basis of characterization of small-subunit rRNA gene sequences.
Early diagnosis of Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia, a life-threatening complication in immunosuppressed patients, may lower morbidity and mortality. We have developed a one-tube nested PCR assay for the detection of P. carinii in respiratory specimens. Four primers were selected from the sequence of the small-subunit rRNA gene of P. carinii to amplify a 265-bp fragment, and their specificities for P. carinii were confirmed by both theoretical evaluations (by computer-assisted comparison with the sequences in GenBank) and empirical evaluations (with DNA from medically important fungi and diagnostic samples). The assay was optimized for routine diagnostic use. Processing of the clinical samples is rapid and simple (digestion with proteinase K directly in PCR buffer at room temperature in the presence of 10% Chelex 100 and no further purification steps). Bovine serum albumin (1 mg/ml) and glycerol (10%) in the amplification buffer reduced the number of samples inhibitory to the PCR, as assessed by control reactions containing a size-modified target. A total of 749 clinical specimens (312 bronchoalveolar lavage, 403 sputum or induced sputum, and 34 other specimens) from 507 patients (295 human immunodeficiency virus [HIV]-infected and 164 non-HIV-infected patients and 48 patients whose HIV status was unknown) were tested by PCR, and the results were compared with those of an indirect immunofluorescence assay (IFA). Concordant results were obtained for 732 samples (646 negative and 86 positive). There were 17 discrepant results: 12 were PCR positive and IFA negative, and 5 were PCR negative and IFA positive. After resolution of the discrepant results by review of the patients' clinical data, the sensitivity and specificity were 94.8 and 99.1%, respectively, for PCR and 93.8 and 100%, respectively, for IFA. In conclusion, the short procedure time and the technical ease of this PCR assay render it suitable for implementation in routine diagnostic laboratories.
The objective of this study was to type, analyze, and compare Pneumocystis carinii hominis strains obtained from different samples during a given or recurrent episodes of P. carinii pneumonia (PCP) for epidemiologic purposes. We studied 36 bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) or induced sputum (IS) samples from 16 human immunodeficiency virus-infected patients with one or several episodes of PCP. PCR amplification and direct sequencing were performed on the two internal transcribed spacers (ITS1 and ITS2) of P. carinii hominis rRNA genes by using DNA extracted from BAL or IS samples, and the sequences were compared to the mitochondrial large-subunit (mt LSU) gene sequence determined in a previous study in our laboratory. The studies of the mt LSU and ITS sequences showed that some patients (n = 10) were infected with the same strains of P. carinii hominis during a given episode of PCP. In one patient infected with strains with identical sequences in several episodes, the recurrence could have been due to reactivation of organisms not eliminated by treatment during the first episode or to de novo infection by an identical strain. In five patients infected with strains with different sequences in each episode, recurrence was due to de novo infection. Sequence analysis of these two P. carinii hominis gene regions showed that de novo infection can occur in AIDS patients with recurrent PCP.
Surfactant protein A (SP-A), a member of the collectin family, selectively binds to Pneumocystis carinii and mediates interactions between pathogen and host alveolar macrophages in vitro. To test the hypothesis that mice lacking SP-A have delayed clearance of Pneumocystis organisms and enhanced lung injury, wild-type C57BL/6 (WT) and SP-A-deficient mice (SP-A−/−) with or without selective CD4+-T-cell depletion were intratracheally inoculated with Pneumocystis organisms. Four weeks later, CD4-depleted SP-A-deficient mice had developed a more severe Pneumocystis infection than CD4-depleted WT (P. carinii pneumonia [PCP] scores of 3 versus 2, respectively). Whereas all non-CD4-depleted WT mice were free of PCP, intact SP-A−/− mice also had evidence of increased organism burden. Pneumocystis infection in SP-A-deficient mice was associated histologically with enhanced peribronchial and/or perivascular cellularity (score of 4 versus 2, SP-A−/− versus C57BL/6 mice, respectively) and a corresponding increase in bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) cell counts. Increases in SP-D content, gamma interferon, interleukin-4, interleukin-5, and tumor necrosis factor alpha in BAL fluid occurred but were attenuated in PCP-infected SP-A−/− mice compared to WT mice. There were increases in total BAL NO levels in both infected groups, but nitrite levels were higher in SP-A−/− mice, indicating a reduction in production of higher oxides of nitrogen that was also reflected in lower levels of 3-nitrotyrosine staining in the SP-A−/− group. We conclude that despite increases in inflammatory cells, SP-A-deficient mice infected with P. carinii exhibit an enhanced susceptibility to the organism and attenuated production of proinflammatory cytokines and reactive oxygen-nitrogen species. These data support the concept that SP-A is a local effector molecule in the lung host defense against P. carinii in vivo.
The detection of Pneumocystis carinii DNA in blood by PCR could be useful for studying the natural history of pneumocystosis and could also be a noninvasive diagnostic method. The results of previous studies are nevertheless conflicting. In our study, we compared three commercially available DNA extraction kits (GeneReleaser, QIAamp Tissue Kit, and ReadyAmp Genomic DNA Purification System) and proteinase K and proteinase K-phenol-chloroform treatments for the extraction of P. carinii DNA from dilutions of a P. carinii f. sp. hominis cyst suspension mixed with human whole blood. A rapid and simple nested PCR protocol which amplifies a portion of the mitochondrial large-subunit rRNA gene was applied to all the extraction products. The QIAmp Tissue Kit was the most effective kit for the isolation of amplification-ready P. carinii DNA and was used with nested PCR for the testing of whole-blood specimens from 35 immunocompetent control patients and 84 human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-infected patients investigated for pulmonary disease and/or fever. In HIV-infected patients, P. carinii DNA was detected by nested PCR in blood samples from 3 of 14 patients with microscopically proven P. carinii pneumonia, 7 of 22 patients who were considered to be colonized with P. carinii, and 9 of 48 patients who were neither infected nor colonized with P. carinii. P. carinii DNA was not detected in blood specimens from the 35 immunocompetent patients. P. carinii DNA in blood might represent viable P. carinii organisms or DNA complexes released from pulmonary phagocytes. In conclusion, P. carinii DNA may be detected in whole blood from HIV-infected patients, but the nature and the meaning of the circulating form of P. carinii remain to be established.
To evaluate the value of single and nested PCRs for diagnosis of Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP) in a variety of respiratorily distressed patient groups, 574 respiratory samples from 334 patients (89 human immunodeficiency virus [HIV]-positive patients, 61 transplant recipients, 66 malignancy patients, 34 otherwise immunosuppressed patients, and 84 immunocompetent patients) were prospectively examined by microscopy and single and nested PCRs. The resulting data were correlated with clinical evidence of PCP. Microscopy and single PCR of bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) specimens from HIV patients were 100% sensitive and specific in detecting PCP, whereas nested PCR, although being 100% sensitive, reached a specificity of only 97.5%. In the three non-HIV immunosuppressed patient groups, both single and nested PCR invariably produced lower positive predictive values than microscopy. Among immunocompetent patients, the positive predictive values of both PCRs were 0%. Therefore, the diagnostic values of the PCR methods tested do not seem to offer any additional advantage compared to that of conventional microscopy for these patient groups. However, nested PCR identified a significant percentage of clinically silent P. carinii colonizations in about 17 to 20% of immunocompetent and immunosuppressed non-HIV patients.
BACKGROUND--Infection with Pneumocystis carinii typically results in a pneumonia which histologically is seen to consist of an eosinophilic foamy alveolar exudate associated with a mild plasma cell interstitial infiltrate. Special stains show that cysts of P carinii lie within the alveolar exudate. Atypical histological appearances may occasionally be seen, including a granulomatous pneumonia and diffuse alveolar damage. In these patients the clinical presentation may be atypical and results of investigations negative unless lung biopsies are performed and tissue obtained for histological examination. METHODS--The incidence and mode of presentation of histologically atypical pneumocystis pneumonia was studied in a cohort of HIV-I antibody positive patients. RESULTS--Over a 30 month period 138 patients had pneumocystis pneumonia, of whom eight (6%) had atypical histological appearances which were diagnosed (after negative bronchoalveolar lavage) by open lung biopsy in five, percutaneous biopsy in one, and at post mortem examination in two. Atypical appearances included granulomatous inflammation in four patients, "pneumocystoma" in two (one also had extrapulmonary pneumocystosis), bronchiolitis obliterans organising pneumonia in one patient, diffuse alveolar damage and subpleural cysts in one (who also had intrapulmonary cytomegalovirus infection), and extrapulmonary pneumocystosis in two patients. CONCLUSIONS--Various atypical histological appearances may be seen in pneumocystis pneumonia. Lung biopsy (either percutaneous or open) should be considered when bronchoalveolar lavage is repeatedly negative and evidence of P carinii should be sought, by use of special stains, in all lung biopsy material from HIV-I antibody positive patients.
Three HIV positive subjects presented with symptoms and radiographic changes suggestive of Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia. Methenamine silver staining of bronchoscopic alveolar lavage (BAL) fluid was negative (from one sample in one patient and two samples in the other two patients). Open lung biopsy was performed because of uncertain clinical progress and diagnosis; all three patients were found to have multiple pulmonary granulomata encasing numerous P carinii organisms. DNA amplification, using P carinii specific oligonucleotides, was performed on stored bronchoscopic BAL samples. P carinii specific amplification product was detected by ethidium bromide staining after electrophoretic separation on agarose gel in one case, and by the more sensitive technique of oligohybridisation in all three cases. In granulomatous P carinii pneumonia organisms are rarely identified in bronchoscopic alveolar lavage samples using histochemical staining, but are detectable by DNA amplification, although not at levels which can be readily distinguished from low, subclinical infection.