|Is pneumocystis pneumonia caused by bacteria or fungus? AIDS and cancer patients often die when infected with this germ. I believe they die because the normal treatment is antibiotics and steroids, both fuel to fungal diseases. But one research group began using an anti-inflammatory drug called sulfasalazine on mice with PCP. This drug is also commonly used to treat Crohn’s and arthritis patients.|
The research group discovered that sulfasalazine successfully killed the very fungus that they now know causes PCP, and even thought the mice had depressed immunity, they thrived and were healthier to fight the disease while on sulfasalazine. “This was unexpected” stated the lead researcher. Unexpected, I ask? Wait until they discover that Crohn’s and arthritis is also caused by fungus, or that most pneumonia is, too! They are learning, but I wish they’d lay down the antibiotics and steroids and rethink “the cause”
What is PCP?
PCP is a kind of pneumonia caused by a bacteria called Pneumocystis jiroveci (P. jiroveci). (Say: new-mo-sis-tis yee-row-vet-zee-eye.) It used to be called Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia. Most people infected with P. jiroveci don’t get pneumonia because their immune systems are healthy and strong. People whose immune systems are weak because of HIV infection can get PCP. PCP is less common than it used to be, but it’s still the most common serious infection in people who have advanced HIV disease in the United States.
Pneumocystis pneumonia (PCP) is a lung infection that occurs primarily in people with weakened immune systems-especially people who are HIV-positive. The disease agent is an organism whose biological classification is still uncertain. Pneumocystis carinii was originally thought to be a one-celled organism (a protozoan), but more recent research suggests that it is a fungus.
Old Drug Holds Promise Against Opportunistic Lung Bug
ROCHESTER, N.Y., Aug. 19 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — A drug to treat inflammation plays a surprising role reducing the level of infection caused by an opportunistic bug that is deadly for AIDS and cancer patients and others with weakened immune systems.
The drug, sulfasalazine, spurs the body to get rid of the fungal evaders by enhancing the body’s ability to chew them up instead of leaving the debris to litter the lungs, where it would continue to provoke an onslaught of harmful inflammation.
Besides opening a new avenue for research on Pneumocystis pneumonia or PCP, caused by the fungus Pneumocystis jirovecii, the work with mice also offers the possibility of manipulating immune cells called macrophages to improve treatment of infections.
The findings by scientists at the University of Rochester Medical Center were published August 19 in the journal PLoS Pathogens.
Dr. Terry Wright’s team looked at the effects in mice of sulfasalazine, an anti-inflammatory drug that has proven useful in treating conditions like Crohn’s disease and rheumatoid arthritis. The team found that Pneumocystis-infected mice treated with sulfasalazine developed much less severe disease than untreated mice. The sulfasalazine-treated mice had better lung function, less weight loss, and were generally healthier than untreated animals.
While some of the benefit was due to the drug’s anti-inflammatory properties and was expected, the result included a big surprise: The drug also spurs the body to remove the bug more aggressively by boosting the activity of immune cells called macrophages.
“This was unexpected,” said first author Jing Wang, Ph.D., research assistant professor in Pediatrics. “Since we reduced the response of the immune system, you would think the mice would get sicker. But instead, the mice treated with sulfasalazine were healthier. At first we thought it was due solely to the anti-inflammatory activity of the compound, but it turns out that sulfasalazine actually results in a reduced fungal burden. The drug helps the body clear the infection.
“We initially thought we had done something wrong, and so we repeated the experiment again and again. Then, when new technology was developed, we were able to document that the body cleared the infection more readily with sulfasalazine,” added Wang.