Healthcare Library

Spanish Version
Print-Friendly
Bookmarks
bookmarks-menu

Pneumocystis jiroveci pneumonia

Pneumocystis pneumonia; Pneumocystosis; PCP; Pneumocystis carinii

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

  • Cancer
  • Long-term use of corticosteroids or other medicines that weaken the immune system
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Organ or bone marrow transplant

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:

  • Cough, often mild and dry
  • Fever
  • Rapid breathing
  • Shortness of breath, especially with activity (exertion)

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, causing 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, call your provider if you develop a cough, fever, or shortness of breath.

Prevention

Preventive therapy is recommended for:

  • People with HIV/AIDS who have CD4 counts below 200 cells/microliter or 200 cells/cubic millimeter
  • Bone marrow transplant recipients
  • Organ transplant recipients
  • People who take long-term, high-dose corticosteroids
  • People who have had previous episodes of this infection
  • People who take long-term immunomodulatory drugs

References

Kovacs JA. Pneumocystis pneumonia. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 341.

Walzer PD, Smulian AG, Miller RF. Pneumocystis species. In: Bennett JE, Dolin R, Blaser MJ, eds. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases, Updated Edition. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 271.

    • Lungs

      Lungs - illustration

      The major features of the lungs include the bronchi, the bronchioles and the alveoli. The alveoli are the microscopic blood vessel-lined sacks in which oxygen and carbon dioxide gas are exchanged.

      Lungs

      illustration

    • AIDS

      AIDS - illustration

      AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) is caused by HIV (human immunodeficiency virus), and is a syndrome that leaves the body vulnerable to a host of life-threatening illnesses. There is no cure for AIDS, but treatment with antiviral medicine can suppress symptoms. AIDS is universally fatal, in large part due to the proliferation of opportunistic infections.

      AIDS

      illustration

    • Pneumocystosis

      Pneumocystosis - illustration

      Pneumocystosis is an infection of the lungs caused by the microorganism Pneumocystis carinii. Pneumocystosis is almost exclusively seen in individuals whose immune systems have been compromised by AIDS or chemotherapy. Pneumocystosis is usually a terminal event in AIDS patients.

      Pneumocystosis

      illustration

      • Lungs

        Lungs - illustration

        The major features of the lungs include the bronchi, the bronchioles and the alveoli. The alveoli are the microscopic blood vessel-lined sacks in which oxygen and carbon dioxide gas are exchanged.

        Lungs

        illustration

      • AIDS

        AIDS - illustration

        AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) is caused by HIV (human immunodeficiency virus), and is a syndrome that leaves the body vulnerable to a host of life-threatening illnesses. There is no cure for AIDS, but treatment with antiviral medicine can suppress symptoms. AIDS is universally fatal, in large part due to the proliferation of opportunistic infections.

        AIDS

        illustration

      • Pneumocystosis

        Pneumocystosis - illustration

        Pneumocystosis is an infection of the lungs caused by the microorganism Pneumocystis carinii. Pneumocystosis is almost exclusively seen in individuals whose immune systems have been compromised by AIDS or chemotherapy. Pneumocystosis is usually a terminal event in AIDS patients.

        Pneumocystosis

        illustration

      A Closer Look

       

      Review Date: 12/13/2017

      Reviewed By: Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Assistant 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.

      The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., a business unit of Ebix, Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
      adam.com

       
       
       

       

       

      A.D.A.M. content is best viewed in IE9 or above, Firefox and Google Chrome browser.
      Content is best viewed in IE9 or above, Firefox and Google Chrome browser.

      ways to give

      view all

      news room

      view all

      healthcare library

      view all
      Event Calendar

      Hunterdon Healthcare offers an array of educational events, including childbirth, healthy living and fitness classes.

      LEARN MORE
      Health and Wellness Centers

      Where health and fitness meet to help you stay healthy at every age.

      LEARN MORE
      Heart & Vascular

      Heart and Vascular Services Department brings world-class cardiovascular care to our community.

      LEARN MORE