Histoplasmosis and Paracoccidioidomycosis in a Non-Endemic Area: A Review of Cases and Diagnosis


María José Buitrago, PhD, Servicio de Micología, Centro Nacional de Microbiología, Instituto de Salud Carlos III, Ctra Majadahonda-Pozuelo Km 2, E-28220 Majadahonda, Madrid, Spain. E-mail: buitrago@isciii.es


Background. Histoplasmosis and paracoccidioidomycosis (PCM) have increased in Spain in recent years, due firstly to the migration from endemic regions and secondly to travelers returning from these regions. In non-endemic areas, diagnosis of both diseases is hampered by the lack of experience, long silent periods, and the resemblance to other diseases such as tuberculosis and sarcoidosis.

Methods. A total of 39 cases of imported histoplasmosis and 6 cases of PCM diagnosed in the Spanish Mycology Reference Laboratory since 2006 were analyzed. Microbiological diagnosis was performed using classical methods and also a specific real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) assay for each microorganism.

Results. We had 9 cases of probable histoplasmosis in travelers and 30 cases in immigrants, 29 of whom were defined as proven. Paracoccidioidomycosis (PCM) cases were either immigrants or people who had lived for a long period of time in endemic regions, all of whom were classified as proven cases. Cultures showed a good sensitivity in detecting Histoplasma capsulatum in immigrants with proven histoplasmosis (73%); however, growth was very slow. The fungus was never recovered in traveler patients. Paracoccidioides brasiliensis was isolated in a culture only in one case of the proven PCM. Serological methods were not very reliable in immunocompromized patients with histoplasmosis (40%). A PCR-based technique for histoplasmosis detected 55.5% of the cases in travelers (probable cases) and 89% of the cases in immigrants (proven). The PCR method for PCM detected 100% of the cases.

Conclusions. These kinds of mycoses are increasingly frequent in non-endemic areas, and newer and faster techniques should be used to reach an early diagnosis. The RT-PCR techniques developed appear to be sensitive, specific, and fast and could be helpful to detect those mycoses. However, it is also essential that physicians perform differential diagnosis in individuals coming from endemic areas.