Pulmonary histoplasmosis syndromes: recognition, diagnosis, and management

Semin Respir Crit Care Med. 2004 Apr;25(2):129-44. doi: 10.1055/s-2004-824898.


Pulmonary manifestations are the hallmark of histoplasmosis. Clinical syndromes range from asymptomatic infection to diffuse alveolar disease causing respiratory difficulty and even death. Serologic tests for antibodies and antigen detection are especially helpful in the diagnosis of histoplasmosis but are frequently overlooked. Detection of Histoplasma capsulatum antigen in bronchoalveolar lavage fluid may be particularly helpful in patients with acute pulmonary histoplasmosis or disseminated disease with pulmonary involvement. Topics of special importance for pulmonary disease specialists include the approach to the exclusion of histoplasmosis in the evaluation of patients with suspected sarcoidosis, differentiation of pulmonary histoplasmosis and malignancy in those with lung masses or mediastinal lymphadenopathy, and recognition and management of chronic pulmonary and mediastinal manifestations of histoplasmosis. Although histoplasmosis is mild and self-limited in most healthy individuals, antifungal therapy is indicated in those with acute diffuse pulmonary infection, chronic pulmonary histoplasmosis, progressive disseminated disease, and perhaps mediastinal adenitis accompanied by obstructive symptoms. Antifungal therapy to prevent reactivation of histoplasmosis during immunosuppressive therapy, or transition of mediastinal adenitis to fibrosing mediastinitis, although controversial, is not recommended. Several new drugs active against H. capsulatum offer alternatives in patients failing or intolerant of current therapies.