Background: In patients with chronic respiratory disease, Pneumocystis jirovecii (P. jirovecii) colonization is observed, and may influence disease progression and systemic inflammation. Pneumocystis pneumonia causes interstitial changes, so making a diagnosis of PCP in patients who have interstitial pneumonia (IP) with P. jirovecii colonization is sometimes difficult based on radiography.
Methods: This study investigated the prevalence of P. jirovecii colonization in IP patients and assessed pulmonary injury due to P. jirovecii colonization by measurement of serum markers (KL-6, SP-A, SP-D, and (1-->3) beta-D-glucan (beta-D-glucan)) and the peripheral lymphocyte counts, prospectively. A total of 75 patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (n = 29), collagen vascular-related interstitial pneumonia (n = 19), chronic bronchitis or pneumonia (n = 20), and Pneumocystis pneumonia (n = 7) were enrolled in this prospective study. P. jirovecii DNA was detected in sputum samples, while serum markers and the lymphocyte count were measured in the peripheral blood.
Results: IP patients (idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis and collagen vascular-related IP) who received oral corticosteroids had a high prevalence of P. jirovecii colonization (23.3%). In IP patients, oral corticosteroid therapy was a significant risk factor for P. jirovecii colonization (P < 0.05). Serum markers did not show differences between IP patients with and without P. jirovecii colonization. The beta-D-glucan level and lymphocyte count differed between patients with Pneumocystis pneumonia or P. jirovecii colonization.
Conclusion: Serum levels of KL-6, SP-A, SP-D, and beta-D-glucan were not useful for detecting P. jirovecii colonization in IP patients. However, the serum beta-D-glucan level and lymphocyte count were useful for distinguishing P. jirovecii colonization from pneumocystis pneumonia in IP patients.