Background: We studied the prevalence, epidemiological features, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment and outcome of invasive aspergillosis in AIDS patients in Italy.
Patients and methods: All patients affected by both aspergillosis and AIDS hospitalized between January 1986 and April 1997 (before highly-active antiretroviral therapy, HAART) in four Italian Department of Infectious Disease. Patients were included in the study only if culture, cytology or histology showed firm evidence of Aspergillus infection. Invasive aspergillosis was defined as the presence of characteristic, closely septate hyphae with repeated acute angle branching in either biopsy materials or percutaneous aspirates from tissues other than the lung. Hyphae were identified using hematoxylin-eosin and methenamine silver stain.
Results: During the study, 54 out of 2,614 patients admitted with AIDS showed aspergillosis (2.1%). The disease usually occurred in patients with < 50 CD4 cells/mm(3). Aspergillosis was associated with neutropenia and steroid treatment. Nonspecific symptoms were frequently encountered. Fever and cough were both present in > 70% of the cases of pulmonary aspergillosis. Biopsy specimens were analyzed for definitive diagnosis. Invasive aspergillosis is usually treated with amphotericin B, but in 90% of the cases this did not prevent death.
Conclusion: In AIDS patients with neutropenia and long-term steroid therapy, it is important to consider invasive aspergillosis in the differential diagnosis of opportunistic infections.