Journal Article

<i>Pneumocystis</i> Colonization Is Highly Prevalent in the Autopsied Lungs of the General Population

Carolina A. Ponce, Myriam Gallo, Rebeca Bustamante and Sergio L. Vargas

in Clinical Infectious Diseases

Published on behalf of Infectious Diseases Society of America

Volume 50, issue 3, pages 347-353
Published in print February 2010 | ISSN: 1058-4838
Published online February 2010 | e-ISSN: 1537-6591 | DOI:
Pneumocystis Colonization Is Highly Prevalent in the Autopsied Lungs of the General Population

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Background. Increasing reports of Pneumocystis DNA in noninvasive respiratory specimens from immunocompetent asymptomatic adults and the characteristic lung tropism of Pneumocystis suggest that asymptomatic pulmonary infections with Pneumocystis occur after primary infection. However, studies searching for Pneumocystis in the autopsied lungs of healthy immunocompetent adults have not met with success.

Methods. Lungs of people who died of violent causes (accidents, homicide, and suicide) and of nonviolent causes (diseases causing a rapid demise in the street) in Santiago, Chile—for whom an autopsy was legally required—were examined for Pneumocystis by nested polymerase chain reaction (PCR) DNA amplification of the mitochondrial large subunit ribosomal RNA–specific P. jirovecii gene and immunofluorescent microscopic analysis. Lung tissue concentration methods and analysis of ∼3% of the weight of the right upper lobe (RUL) were needed to reach the sensitivity threshold of the assays. Individuals determined to be P. jirovecii negative after analysis of 3% of the RUL weight in the violent death group were confirmed to be negative by analyzing additional tissue, totaling 6%–7% of the RUL weight.

Results. P. jirovecii was identified by nested PCR in 50 (64.9%) of 77 individuals (34 [61.8%] of 55 in the violent death group and 15 [78.9%] of 19 in the nonviolent death group; P>.05) and additionally by microscopic analysis in all individuals who tested positive for P. jirovecii DNA in the violent death group. Analysis of tissue beyond 3.0% of the RUL weight for the individuals who tested negative yielded consistently negative results.

Conclusions. A mild P. jirovecii pulmonary infection is prevalent in more than half of the general adult population. Our results strengthen the concept that immunocompetent adults develop frequent self-limited reinfections throughout life and participate in the circulation of P. jirovecii as an infective reservoir for susceptible individuals.

Journal Article.  4690 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Infectious Diseases ; Immunology ; Public Health and Epidemiology ; Microbiology

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