Opportunistic lung infection due to "Pittsburgh Pneumonia Agent"

N Engl J Med. 1979 Nov 1;301(18):953-8. doi: 10.1056/NEJM197911013011801.


Eight immunosuppressed patients had pneumonia due to Pittsburgh Pneumonia Agent (PPA), a gram-negative, weakly acid-fast bacterium cultivatable only in embryonated eggs and guinea pigs and distinct from Legionella pneumophila. The diagnosis was established by isolation of the agent from lung or visualization of the organism in lung tissue. The clinical presentations, radiographic abnormalities and pathology were not specific. The most consistent feature associated with the disease was the recent institution of daily high-dose corticosteriod therapy in all patients. Five of the eight patients died despite broad-spectrum antibiotic and antituberculous therapy. Anti-microbial activity against PPA was demonstrated for sulfamethoxazole combined with trimethoprim, for rifampin and for erythromycin with an egg-protection assay. Serologic studies with an indirect fluorescent-antibody technic suggested that seroconversion or high titers may be a sensitive test for PPA disease. PPA appears to be a newly recognized cause of life-threatening bacterial pneumonia in immunosupressed patients.

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / administration & dosage
  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / adverse effects
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Antibodies, Bacterial / analysis
  • Bacteria / drug effects
  • Bacteria / immunology
  • Bacteria / isolation & purification*
  • Drug Combinations
  • Erythromycin / pharmacology
  • Female
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / adverse effects
  • Lung / microbiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pneumonia / microbiology*
  • Rifampin / pharmacology
  • Sulfamethoxazole / pharmacology
  • Trimethoprim / pharmacology


  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Antibodies, Bacterial
  • Drug Combinations
  • Immunosuppressive Agents
  • Erythromycin
  • Trimethoprim
  • Sulfamethoxazole
  • Rifampin