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November 10, 1997

Mycobacteremia in Patients With the Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome

Author Affiliations

From the Evandro Chagas Hospital (Drs Grinsztejn, Veloso, Lourenço, and Werneck-Barroso), and the Department of Technological Development of Immunobiologic Products (Ms Fandinho), the Oswaldo Cruz Institute, Oswaldo Cruz Foundation; the Infectious Diseases Service, Servidores do Estado Hospital, National Health Institute (Dr João); and the Infectious Diseases Service, Clementino Fraga Filho Hospital (Dr Nogueira), the Mycobacteriology Laboratory, Microbiology Institute (Dr Fonseca), and the Mycobacteriology Laboratory, Phthysiology e Pneumology Institute (Dr Werneck-Barroso), Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Arch Intern Med. 1997;157(20):2359-2363. doi:10.1001/archinte.1997.00440410091010

Background:  Bacillemia is a key event in the pathogenesis of tuberculosis. Although current evidence indicates that Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacteremia is rare in patients seronegative for the human immunodeficiency virus, it has been increasingly reported in patients with the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).

Objective:  To determine clinical and laboratory characteristics of patients with AIDS and tuberculosis with and without bacillemia.

Methods:  Fifty patients with AIDS with clinical suspicion of disseminated mycobacterial disease were prospectively selected. Three consecutive blood samples were collected for culture using a standardized protocol.

Results:  Mycobacterium was isolated from any body site in 42 patients (84%). Bacillemia was detected in 30 (71.4%) of these 42 patients: 11 (28.2%) caused by Mycobacterium avium—intracellulare complex and 19 (71.8%) caused by M tuberculosis. Blood culture was the only method used to confirm the diagnosis in 5 (15%) of the 33 tuberculosis cases. Tuberculosis in patients with AIDS developed with nonspecific insidious symptoms, a remarkable elevated alkaline phosphatase level, and without the classic miliary radiological pattern. We could demonstrate 2 previously unrevealed clinical characteristics of bacteremic tuberculosis in patients with AIDS: a shift to the left in the white blood cell count and abdominal lymph node enlargement. In patients with tuberculosis, the in-hospital mortality rate was higher among patients with bacillemia, although the posttreatment survival rate was comparable.

Conclusions:  Blood culture is a valuable tool to confirm the clinical diagnosis of disseminated tuberculosis in patients with AIDS and can distinguish patients with characteristic clinical findings and outcome. Abdominal ultrasonography may be an additional helpful tool to identify these patients.Arch Intern Med. 1997;157:2359-2363