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Ross T. McCormack, NYU School of Medicine, Class of 2014
Coccidioidomycosis is an airborne fungal infection endemic in parts
of the Southwestern United States that typically presents as a
mild, flu-like illness. Extrapulmonary manifestations have an
estimated prevalence of 4.7%. While disseminated infection is
classically associated with immunocompromised patients, in rare
cases, it has affected immunocompetent hosts.
A 28 year-old African-American male with hypertension presented
with two years of cough productive of green sputum, back pain, and
cutaneous facial lesions. Five years prior to admission the patient
reports visiting a desert in Northern California where he was
exposed to high levels of airborne dust. Two years prior to
admission, he developed facial lesions, followed shortly thereafter
by shortness of breath, productive cough and back pain. He was
diagnosed with disseminated coccidioidomycosis with lung, skin, and
spine lesions, and was treated with two weeks of amphotericin B
followed by fluconazole, to which he was intermittently adherent
for the five months prior to admission. Two weeks prior to
admission, he traveled to New York City and noticed recurrence of
the facial lesions, productive cough, and back pain.
Physical exam was notable for exaggerated lumbar kyphosis with
marked paraspinal tenderness bilaterally. Additionally, scattered
rales were appreciated in bilateral lung fields.
HIV rapid screen and PPD were negative. Chest CT showed
innumerable small centrilobular nodules; MRI of the lumbar spine
suggested osteomyelitis involving L2-L4, retropulsion of L4, as
well as canal stenosis and infarction of L3; cutaneous lesion
biopsy showed coccidioides fungi. He was treated with amphotericin
B for 14 days and followed by fluconazole. His cutaneous lesions
and back pain decreased prior to discharge.
This case demonstrates the potential need for long-term anti-fungal
therapy in patients with disseminated coccidioidomycosis,
regardless of immune status. Proposed deficiencies in
IL-12/IL-23/INF-y have been suggested as the mechanism of
susceptibility to disseminated coccidioides infections. In fact,
several studies demonstrated patients, who appeared to be
immunocompetent with disseminated coccidioidomycosis, were later
found to have IL-12B2 receptor deficiency as well as an IFN-y
receptor 1 deficiency. This suggests an underlying, as yet
unexplored immunocompromised phenotype, potentiating the risk for
more aggressive infection. Although not thoroughly studied, if
these deficiencies are in fact prevalent, this would support the
utility of long-term azole therapy.
April 2013 Issue of IMpact