The transmission of Pneumocystis carinii from person to person was studied by detecting P. carinii-specific DNA in prospectively obtained noninvasive deep-nasal-swab samples from a child with a documented P. carinii pneumonia (PCP), his mother, two contact health care workers, and 30 hospital staff members who did not enter the patient's room (controls). Nested-DNA amplification was done by using oligonucleotide primers designed for the gene encoding the mitochondrial large subunit rRNA of rat P. carinii (P. carinii f. sp. carinii) that amplifies all forms of P. carinii and internal primers specific for human P. carinii (f. sp. hominis). P. carinii f. sp. hominis DNA was detected in samples from the patient and all of his contacts versus none of the 30 hospital staff members. The results, as previously shown in murine models of P. carinii pneumonia, document that person-to-person transmission of P. carinii is possible. This observation suggests that immunocompromised patients not on PCP prophylaxis should not enter the room of a patient with PCP, and it also raises the question as to whether healthy contacts can transmit the disease to immunocompromised patients at risk.
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.
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.
The means by which humans acquire Pneumocystis carinii is not well understood. Whether it can be acquired from specific environmental sources or transmitted from person to person has not been determined. This study was designed to detect nucleic acids of P. carinii in air samples from various locations, including P. carinii-infected patients' homes and hospital rooms, non-P. carinii-infected patients' hospital rooms, empty hospital rooms, offices at Indiana University, and other homes in different locations. DNA was extracted from cellulose-ester filters through which air samples had been filtered, and the P. carinii DNA was amplified by PCR with primers specific for the internal transcribed spacer regions of rRNA. P. carinii DNA was found in 17 of 30 air samples (57%) from the rooms of P. carinii-infected patients. It was also found in 6 of the 21 other hospital rooms sampled (29%) but was not found in any of the offices, storage areas, or control homes. Environmental sampling suggests that the airborne presence of P. carinii genetic material and infectious organisms is plausible. The organism was also detected in locations where P. carinii patients were not immediately proximate, such as the hospital rooms of non-P. carinii-infected patients.
Severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID) mice resolve naturally acquired Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia after reconstitution with immunocompetent spleen cells and can therefore be used as a model to study latent P. carinii infection. Neither P. carinii nor amplified P. carinii DNA was detected in the lungs of SCID mice killed 21 days after spleen cell reconstitution. Furthermore, SCID mice that recovered from P. carinii infection failed to reactivate the infection after they were either depleted of CD4+ cells for up to 84 days or depleted of CD4+ cells and treated with corticosteroid for 35 days. These results indicate that an immune response to P. carinii can completely clear the organism from the host. This supports the hypothesis that P. carinii pneumonia that develops in immunocompromised patients may be a new infection resulting from exposure to an exogenous source of P. carinii and not necessarily from reactivation of latent infection.
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
A rapid (time to completion, <4 h, including DNA extraction) and quantitative touch-down (QTD) real-time diagnostic Pneumocystis carinii PCR assay with an associated internal control was developed, using fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) probes for detection. The touch-down procedure significantly increased the sensitivity of the assay compared to a non-touch-down procedure. Tenfold serial dilutions of a cloned target were used as standards for quantification. P. carinii DNA has been detected in respiratory specimens from patients with P. carinii pneumonia (PCP) and from patients without clinical evidence of PCP. The latter probably represents colonization or subclinical infection. It is logical to hypothesize that quantification might prove helpful in distinguishing between infected and colonized patients: the latter group would have lower copy numbers than PCP patients. A blinded retrospective study of 98 respiratory samples (49 lower respiratory tract specimens and 49 oral washes), from 51 patients with 24 episodes of PCP and 34 episodes of other respiratory disease, was conducted. PCR-positive samples from colonized patients contained a lower concentration of P. carinii DNA than samples from PCP patients: lower respiratory tract samples from PCP and non-PCP patients contained a median of 938 (range, 2.4 to 1,040,000) and 2.6 (range, 0.3 to 248) (P < 0.0004) copies per tube, respectively. Oral washes from PCP and non-PCP patients contained a median of 49 (range, 2.1 to 2,595) and 6.5 (range, 2.2 to 10) (P < 0.03) copies per tube, respectively. These data suggest that this QTD PCR assay can be used to determine if P. carinii is present in respiratory samples and to distinguish between colonization and infection.
By using mouse models, it has been shown that Pneumocystis carinii f. sp. muris can be transmitted to immunocompetent mice that are exposed to immunosuppressed mice with active P. carinii pneumonia. We sought to determine whether P. carinii f. sp. muris could be transmitted between normal mice. The rationale for these experiments was to demonstrate whether the normal host could serve as the reservoir of organisms that produce Pcp when the organism is acquired by the immunosuppressed host. Under the conditions of these experiments, normal mice are able to be infected by brief cohousing with P. carinii-infected SCID mice. There was active replication of organisms in the normal host such that the organism could be transmitted to other normal mice, again with active replication. Mice that had seroconverted after exposure to P. carinii-infected SCID mice were more resistant to infection when reexposed. Infection in normal mice was well tolerated with minimal effects on dynamic lung compliance. We speculate, based on these results, that transmission from normal host to normal host, as an asymptomatic or minimally symptomatic infection, could be a way to maintain this opportunistic pathogen in the environment.
In recent years, clusters of Pneumocystis jirovecii (formerly Pneumocystis carinii) pneumonia (PCP) among immunocompromised individuals have been reported. Mostly, the source of infections was suspected to be within the clinical settings when transplant recipients and PCP patients shared hospital facilities. We report on a cluster of 16 renal transplant recipients positive for P. jirovecii. None of them received anti-Pneumocystis prophylaxis prior to P. jirovecii detection. Epidemiological studies revealed that 15 of them had received kidney transplants at a German university hospital and attended the same inpatient and outpatient clinic from January through September 2006. Multilocus sequence typing (MLST) was performed on the following genes: ITS1, β-tub, 26S, and mt26S. P. jirovecii DNA was available from 14 patients and showed identical MLST types among these renal transplant recipients. Surprisingly, one patient who was treated at a different nephrological center and reported no personal contact with patients from the renal transplantation cluster harbored an identical P. jirovecii MLST type. Three HIV-positive patients and one bone-marrow-transplanted hematologic malignancy patient—treated at different medical centers—were used as controls, and different MLST types were revealed. Interestingly, in three of the four previously described regions, new alleles were detected, and one new polymorphism was observed in the mt26S region. The epidemiological data and the genotyping results strongly suggest a nosocomial patient-to-patient transmission of P. jirovecii as the predominant transmission route. Therefore, strict segregation and isolation of P. jirovecii-positive/suspected patients in clinical settings seems warranted.
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.
Despite recent declines in incidence, Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP) remains the most commonly occurring opportunistic illness among persons with AIDS in the United States. While P. carinii DNA has been detected in patient respiratory specimens and in air samples collected from various indoor environments housing PCP patients, the viability of these organisms is unknown. For this reason, we have developed and evaluated a molecular viability assay for P. carinii. This method is based upon the detection of P. carinii mRNA by a reverse transcription-PCR that employs specific primers from a member of the heat shock protein 70 family. Under optimal assay conditions, these primers were capable of detecting as few as 100 viable trophozoites as determined by ethidium bromide staining, while no signal was obtained from 106 trophozoites killed by heat, desiccation, or UV radiation. This assay was also capable of distinguishing P. carinii from other common fungi present in the air. Therefore, this molecular viability assay may be useful in conjunction with standard bioaerosol collection devices and procedures for the detection of viable P. carinii collected from various indoor environments. It may also be useful in confirming the presence of viable trophozoites in respiratory specimens collected by noninvasive techniques from putatively infected individuals.
AIMS: To investigate the effectiveness of digoxigenin incorporated double stranded DNA probes produced by the polymerase chain reaction (PCR), for the detection of Pneumocystis carinii, using in situ hybridisation (ISH). METHODS: Formalin fixed, paraffin wax embedded sections of 26 human lung samples from 11 patients with P carinii pneumonia (PCP), and 15 with various types of fungal and viral pneumonia, were obtained during necropsy or transbronchial lung biopsy. Three additional PCP induced rat lung samples were also tested. PCR probes were prepared using the digoxigenin labelling mixture, and they were amplified from the DNA of a PCP induced rat lung after administration of dexamethasone, on the basis that 5S ribosomal RNA sequences are identical in human and rat P carinii. ISH was performed using this probe, and visualised using the digoxigenin nucleic acid detection kit. An immunohistochemical study using anti-human Pneumocystis monoclonal antibody was also carried out in parallel. RESULTS: ISH positively stained eight (of eight) lung necropsy specimens from patients with PCP, three (of three) transbronchial lung biopsy specimens from patients with PCP, and none of the three PCP induced rat lung specimens. In contrast, none of the specimens from patients with pneumonia caused by Aspergillus sp (n = 5), Candida sp (n = 4), Cryptococcus sp (n = 2), mucormycosis (n = 2), or cytomegalovirus (n = 2) were positive on ISH or immunohistochemistry. CONCLUSIONS: Using a digoxigenin labelled PCR probe for the entire 5S rRNA sequence in conjunction with conventional staining, ISH is highly reactive and specific for the diagnosis of PCP.
An enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay and a Western blot analysis were developed to study the antibody response to Pneumocystis carinii in serum and bronchoalveolar lavage fluid from 27 human immunodeficiency virus 27 (HIV)-infected patients with P. carinii pneumonia (Pcp), 32 patients without Pcp, and 51 HIV-negative controls. Urea was used for the correct dilution of epithelial lining fluid, and albumin was used to evaluate transudation from plasma for the assessment of local production of antibodies to P. carinii. By contrast with those of immunoglobulin G (IgG), IgA responses to P. carinii were increased in serum from HIV-positive patients compared to negative controls. Local production of antibodies to P. carinii, especially IgA, was decreased in patients with Pcp. In a study of 10 patients of each group, IgG and IgA responses to gp116 from P. carinii were lower in patients with Pcp than in other groups. These results suggest that, in addition to alveolar macrophages, local antibodies may play a role in host defense against P. carinii.
BACKGROUND--Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia was thought to occur from reactivation of latent infection, but recent studies with the polymerase chain reaction have failed to detect P carinii in normal subjects. If pneumocystis pneumonia is therefore caused by new infection the source and mode of transmission of P carinii remains unknown. METHODS--Natural exposure to P carinii was detected by measuring antibodies by indirect immunofluorescence in 24 health care workers working continuously with patients with AIDS and 24 control health care workers exclusively treating elderly patients. RESULTS--P carinii antibody titres were significantly higher in the health care workers exposed to AIDS than in the control group (median titre 1:32 v 1:16 respectively). Three control subjects had no antibodies compared with none of the subjects exposed to AIDS, and 10 of the 12 highest titres came from the exposed group. CONCLUSIONS--Raised P carinii antibody titres in health care workers caring for patients with AIDS suggest that patients infected with HIV may be a potentially infectious source of P carinii for susceptible subjects.
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.
To better understand the role of immunocompetent hosts in the diffusion of Pneumocystis in the environment, airborne shedding of Pneumocystis carinii in the surrounding air of experimentally infected Sprague Dawley rats was quantified by means of a real-time PCR assay, in parallel with the kinetics of P. carinii loads in lungs and specific serum antibody titres. Pneumocystis-free Sprague Dawley rats were intratracheally inoculated at day 0 (d0) and then followed for 60 days. P. carinii DNA was detected in lungs until d29 in two separate experiments and thereafter remained undetectable. A transient air excretion of Pneumocystis DNA was observed between d14 and d22 in the first experiment and between d9 and d19 in the second experiment; it was related to the peak of infection in lungs. IgM and IgG anti-P. carinii antibody increase preceded clearance of P. carinii in the lungs and cessation of airborne excretion. In rats receiving a second challenge 3 months after the first inoculation, Pneumocystis was only detected at a low level in the lungs of 2 of 3 rats at d2 post challenge and was never detected in air samples. Anti-Pneumocystis antibody determinations showed a typical secondary IgG antibody response. This study provides the first direct evidence that immunocompetent hosts can excrete Pneumocystis following a primary acquired infection. Lung infection was apparently controlled by the immune response since fungal burdens decreased to become undetectable as specific antibodies reached high titres in serum. This immune response was apparently protective against reinfection 3 months later.
Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality in patients with the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). Much remains unknown about the basic biology of P. carinii and studies of this infection have been hampered by the lack of cultivation methods. We developed a sensitive and specific assay for P. carinii by utilizing DNA amplification of the P. carinii dihydrofolate reductase (DHFR) gene. By this method, P. carinii DNA was detected in the lungs of rats with experimentally induced P. carinii pneumonia 2 wk before the onset of histopathological changes. DNA amplification analysis of serum demonstrated that by 10 wk of corticosteroid treatment, 12 of 12 (100%) infected rats had circulating DHFR DNA. P. carinii DHFR DNA also was detected in the serum of patients with AIDS and active P. carinii pneumonia (12 of 14 sera collected prospectively). Patients with advanced AIDS but without a history of P. carinii pneumonia were negative by this assay (0 of 6 sera examined). Serum polymerase chain reaction may facilitate investigations into the natural history and epidemiology of P. carinii infection, provide insight into the pathogenesis of parasite dissemination, and offer a useful, noninvasive diagnostic test for the detection of human pneumocystosis.
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 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.
Pneumocystis carinii is a eukaryotic organism that causes pneumonia in immunocompromised hosts. The cell biology and life cycle of the organism are poorly understood primarily because of the lack of a continuous in vitro cultivation system. These limitations have prevented investigation of the organism's infectious cycle and hindered the rational development of new antimicrobial therapies and implementation of measures to prevent exposure to the organism or transmission. The interaction of P. carinii with its host and its environment may be critical determinants of pathogenicity and life cycle. Signal transduction pathways are likely to be critical in regulating these processes. G proteins are highly conserved members of the pathways important in many cellular events, including cell proliferation and environmental sensing. To characterize signal transduction pathways in P. carinii, we cloned a G-protein alpha subunit (G-alpha) of P. carinii carinii and P. carinii ratti by PCR amplification and hybridization screening. The gene encoding the G-alpha was present in single copy on a 450-kb chromosome of P.c. ratti. The 1,062-bp G-alpha open reading frame is interrupted by nine introns. The predicted polypeptide showed 29 to 53% identity with known fungal G-alpha proteins with greatest homology to Neurospora crassa Gna-2. Northern (RNA) blot analysis and immunoprecipitation demonstrated expression of the G-alpha mRNA and protein P. carinii isolated from heavily infected animals. Some alteration in the level of transcription was noted in short-term maintenance in starvation or rich medium. Characterization of signal transduction in P. carinii will permit a better understanding of the reproductive capacity and other cellular processes in this family or organisms that cannot be cultured continuously.
Once regarded as an AIDS-defining illness, Pneumocystis pneumonia (PcP) is nowadays prevailing in immunocompromised HIV-negative individuals such as patients receiving immunosuppressive therapies or affected by primary immunodeficiency. Moreover, Pneumocystis clinical spectrum is broadening to non-severely-immunocompromised subjects who could be colonized by the fungus while remaining asymptomatic for PcP, thus being able to transmit the infection by airborne route to susceptible hosts. Although the taxonomical position of the Pneumocystis genus has been clarified, several aspects of its life cycle remain elusive such as its mode of proliferation within the alveolus or its ploidy level. As no long-term culture model exists to grow Pneumocystis organisms in vitro, an option was to use a model of immunosuppressed rat infected with Pneumocystis carinii and sort life cycle stage fractions using a high-through-put cytometer. Subsequently, ploidy levels of the P. carinii trophic and cystic form fractions were measured by flow cytometry. In the cystic form, eight contents of DNA were measured thus strengthening the fact that each mature cyst contains eight haploid spores. Following release, each spore evolves into a trophic form. The majority of the trophic form fraction was haploid in our study. Some less abundant trophic forms displayed two contents of DNA indicating that they could undergo (i) mating/fusion leading to a diploid status or (ii) asexual mitotic division or (iii) both. Even less abundant trophic forms with four contents of DNA were suggestive of mitotic divisions occurring following mating in diploid trophic forms. Of interest, was the presence of trophic forms with three contents of DNA, an unusual finding that could be related to asymmetrical mitotic divisions occurring in other fungal species to create genetic diversity at lower energetic expenses than mating. Overall, ploidy data of P. carinii life cycle stages shed new light on the complexity of its modes of proliferation.
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.
Pneumocystis carinii causes pneumonia in immunocompromised patients with a high morbidity and mortality rate, but the interaction between this organism and the host cell is not well understood. The purpose of this research was to study the response of host cells to P. carinii infection on a molecular level.
The technique of mRNA differential display was used to detect genes whose expression may be affected by P. carinii infection. The nucleotide sequence of one differentially displayed DNA fragment was found to be identical to that of the rat mitochondrial ATPase 6 gene, which is a subunit of the F0F1-ATP synthase complex. A four-fold increase in expression of this gene was verified by Northern blot analysis of total RNA extracted from P. carinii-infected rat lung versus that from mock-infected rat lung. Localization of the cells containing ATPase 6 mRNA was accomplished by in situ hybridization. In sections of non-infected rat lung, these cells were found lining the distal parts of the respiratory tree and in apical areas of the alveoli. Histological location of these cells suggested that they were Clara cells and type II pneumocytes. This hypothesis was confirmed by co-localizing the mRNAs for ATPase 6 and surfactant protein B (SP-B) to the same cells by two-color fluorescent in situ hybridization.
The ATPase 6 gene is over expressed during P. carinii infection, and type II pneumocytes and Clara cells are the cell types responsible for this over-expression.
The rat model of Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia is frequently used to study human P. carinii infection, but there are many differences between the rat and human infections. We studied naturally acquired P. carinii in wild rats to examine the relevance of the rat model for human infection. P. carinii DNA was detected in 47 of 51 wild rats and in 10 of 12 nonimmunosuppressed laboratory rats. Evidence for three novel formae speciales of rat-derived P. carinii was found, and these were provisionally named Pneumocystis carinii f. sp. rattus-secundi, Pneumocystis carinii f. sp. rattus-tertii, and Pneumocystis carinii f. sp. rattus-quarti. Our data suggest that low-level carriage of P. carinii in wild rats and nonimmunosuppressed laboratory rats is common and that wild rats are frequently coinfected with more than one forma specialis of P. carinii. We also examined the diversity in the internally transcribed spacer (ITS) regions of the nuclear rRNA operon of Pneumocystis carinii f. sp. carinii by using samples from wild rats and laboratory rats and spore trap samples. We report a lack of variation in the ITS1 and ITS2 regions that is consistent with an evolutionary bottleneck in the P. carinii f. sp. carinii population. This study shows that human- and rat-derived P. carinii organisms are very different, not only in genetic composition but also in population structure and natural history.
We examined mutations in the dihydropteroate synthase (DHPS) genes of Pneumocystis carinii f. sp. hominis (P. carinii) strains isolated from 24 patients with P. carinii pneumonia (PCP) in Japan. DHPS mutations were identified at amino acid positions 55 and/or 57 in isolates from 6 (25.0%) of 24 patients. The underlying diseases for these six patients were human immunodeficiency virus type 1 infection (n = 4) or malignant lymphoma (n = 2). This frequency was almost the same as those reported in Denmark and the United States. None of the six patients whose isolates had DHPS mutations were recently exposed to sulfa drugs before they developed the current episode of PCP, suggesting that DHPS mutations not only are selected by the pressure of sulfa agents but may be incidentally acquired. Co-trimoxazole treatment failed more frequently in patients whose isolates had DHPS mutations than in those whose isolates had wild-type DHPS (n = 4 [100%] versus n = 2 [11.1%]; P = 0.002). Our results thus suggest that DHPS mutations may contribute to failures of co-trimoxazole treatment for PCP.