Background: Tuberculosis is unusual in transplant recipients. The incidence, clinical manifestations, and optimal treatment of this disease in this population has not been adequately defined. The present study was undertaken to assess the incidence, clinical features, and response to therapy of Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection in solid-organ transplant recipients.
Methods: We evaluated retrospectively the incidence, clinical characteristics, diagnostic procedures, antituberculous treatment, clinical course, and factors influencing mortality in 51 solid-organ transplant recipients who developed tuberculosis after transplantation. We also reviewed the world literature on tuberculosis in solid-organ transplantation.
Results: The overall incidence of tuberculosis was 0.8%. The localization was pulmonary in 63% of the cases, disseminated in 25%, and extrapulmonary in 12%. Tuberculosis developed from 15 days to 13 years after surgery (mean, 23 months). In one third of the cases, diagnosis was not suspected initially, and in three cases, diagnosis was made at necropsy. Fever was the most frequent symptom, followed by constitutional symptoms, cough, respiratory insufficiency, and pleuritic pain. Fifteen patients (33%) developed hepatotoxicity during treatment; hepatotoxicity was severe in seven cases. Hepatotoxicity was higher in patients receiving four or more antituberculous drugs (50%) than in patients receiving three drugs (21%; P=0.03). Serum levels of cyclosporine decreased in the 26 patients under the simultaneous use of rifampin. Nine of them (35%) developed acute rejection, and five (56%) died, in comparison with 3 of 17 patients (18%) who did not develop rejection after the use of cyclosporine and rifampin (P=0.03). Although microbiological response was favorable in 94% of the 35 patients who completed 6 or more months of treatment, 16 other patients (31%) died before diagnosis or in the course of treatment. None of the patients treated for more than 9 months died as a consequence of tuberculosis, whereas the mortality rate was 33% among those treated for 6 to 9 months (P=0.03). Use of antilymphocyte antibodies or high doses of steroids for acute rejection before tuberculosis was associated with a higher mortality rate.
Conclusions: M tuberculosis causes serious and potentially life-threatening disease in solid-organ transplant recipients. Treatment with at least three drugs during 9 months or more, avoiding the use of rifampin, appears to be appropriate.