Pneumocystis jirovecii (P. jirovecii) is increasingly identified on lower respiratory tract specimens of COVID-19 patients. Our narrative review aims to determine whether the diagnosis of pneumocystis jirovecii pneumonia (PJP) in COVID-19 patients represents coinfection or colonization based on the evidence available in the literature. We also discuss the decision to treat COVID-19 patients with coinfection by PJP.
A literature search was performed through the Pubmed and Web of Science databases from inception to March 10, 2021.
We identified 12 COVID-19 patients suspected to have PJP coinfection. All patients were critically ill and required mechanical ventilation. Many were immunosuppressed from HIV or long-term corticosteroids and other immunosuppressive agents. In both the HIV and non-HIV groups, severe lymphocytopenia was encountered with absolute lymphocyte and CD4+T cell count less than 900 and 200 cells/mm, respectively. The time to PJP diagnosis from the initial presentation was 7.8 (range 2–21) days. Serum lactate dehydrogenase and beta-D-glucan were elevated in those coinfected with PJP. All patients were treated with anti-PJP therapy, predominantly sulfamethoxazole-trimethoprim with corticosteroids. The overall mortality rate was 41.6%, and comparable for both HIV and non-HIV groups.
As the current evidence is restricted to case reports, the true incidence, risk factors, and prognosis of COVID-19 patients with PJP coinfections cannot be accurately determined. Comorbidities of poorly controlled HIV with lymphocytopenia and multiple immunosuppressive therapies are likely predisposing factors for PJP coinfection.