Paracoccidioidomycosis is progressive mycosis of the lungs, skin, mucous membranes, lymph nodes, and internal organs caused by Paracoccidioides brasiliensis. Symptoms are skin ulcers, adenitis, and pain due to abdominal organ involvement. Diagnosis is clinical and microscopic, confirmed by culture. Treatment is with azoles (eg, itraconazole), amphotericin B, or sulfonamides.
Infections occur only in discrete foci in South and Central America, most often in men aged 20 to 50, especially coffee growers of Colombia, Venezuela, and Brazil. Although a relatively unusual opportunistic infection, paracoccidioidomycosis sometimes occurs in immunocompromised patients, including those with AIDS. Although specific natural sites for Paracoccidioides brasiliensis remain undefined, it is presumed to exist in soil as a mold, with infection due to inhalation of conidia (spores produced by the mycelial form of the fungus). Conidia convert to invasive yeasts in the lungs and are assumed to spread to other sites via blood and lymphatics.
Symptoms and Signs
Most people who inhale conidia of P. brasiliensis do not become ill; illness, if it occurs, usually manifests as acute pneumonia, which may spontaneously resolve. Clinically apparent infections can become chronic and progressive but are not usually fatal. There are 3 patterns:
Infections may be mixed, involving combinations of all 3 patterns.
Clinical findings suggest the diagnosis. Culture is diagnostic, although observation of large (often > 15 μm) yeasts that form characteristic multiple buds (pilot wheel) in specimens provides strong presumptive evidence.
Azoles are highly effective. Oral itraconazole is generally considered the drug of choice, primarily because it costs less than other azoles that are available in endemic areas. IV amphotericin B can also eliminate the infection and is often used in very severe cases. Sulfonamides, which are widely used in some countries because they are inexpensive, can suppress growth and cause lesions to regress but are not curative.
Last full review/revision April 2009 by Alan M. Sugar, MD
Content last modified February 2012