Histoplasmosis in Solid Organ Transplant Recipients at a Large Midwestern University Transplant Center

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Histoplasma capsulatum sporadically causes severe infections in solid organ transplant (SOT) patients in the Midwest, but it has been an unusual infection among those patients followed at the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC), located at the western edge of the ‘histo belt.’ Nine SOT patients with histoplasmosis are described (6 renal or renal-pancreas and 3 liver recipients) who developed severe histoplasmosis over a recent 2.5-year period at UNMC. Symptoms started a median of 11 months (range, 1.2–90 months) after organ transplant and consisted primarily of fever, cough, shortness of breath, and malaise or fatigue present for approximately 30 days prior to medical evaluation. All patients had an abnormal chest radiograph and/or computed tomographic scan. Tacrolimus was the main immunosuppressant in all 9 patients, along with prednisone or mycophenolate. Dacluzimab or thymoglobulin had been given around the time of transplant in 6 of 9. None was treated for an episode of acute rejection within 2 months before onset of histoplasmosis, although 2 were on high-dose immunosuppression after recent transplants. Diagnosis was made by culture in 8 of the 9 patients, with positive serum and urine histoplasma antigen tests in all 9 cases. From 1997 to 2001, during a period of relative quiescence of the disease in the general population, the rate of clinical histoplasmosis among SOT patients at UNMC was estimated at 0.11%, whereas during 2002 through the first half of 2004, the rate rose 17-fold to 1.9%. Histoplasmosis can present as a prolonged febrile illness with subacute pulmonary symptoms in a cohort of SOT patients, despite the absence of a regional outbreak.



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