Pneumocystis jirovecii Pneumonia: Current Advances in Laboratory Diagnosis

Tomás Ana Luísa, O Matos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Pneumocystis jirovecii pneumonia (PcP) remains a major cause of respiratory illness among immunocompromised patients. PcP is difficult to diagnose, in particular in non-HIV-infected patients, due to the lack of associated specific clinical data. Since P. jirovecii could not be cultivated for many years, microscopic visualization of cystic or trophic forms in respiratory specimens based on cytochemical or immunofluorescence staining are the standard procedure to identify this fungus. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-based methodologies have been developed to overcome the low sensitivity of microscopy in respiratory specimens, especially those with low fungal load and in non-HIV-infected patients. Real-time quantitative PCR is the only format suitable for a quantitative diagnosis, and these results have been used to differentiate PcP active disease (high fungal load) from carriage/colonization (low fungal load). However, its use is inconclusive with limited results in intermediate fungal loads. New strategies based on measurement of blood biomarkers may be a viable alternative to perform PcP diagnosis non-invasively. Several studies explored the usefulness of candidate serum biomarkers, such as (1-3)-β-D-Glucan, Krebs von den Lungen-6 antigen, lactate dehydrogenase, and S-adenosylmethionine, with the former presenting the most promising results. More recently, approaches based on the detection of specific anti-P. jirovecii antibodies in patients’ sera are showing encouraging results that could enable a faster and inexpensive screening and diagnosis of this opportunistic infectious disease, helping to improve therapeutic interventions, disease control, and provide retrenchment to healthcare systems.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages24
JournalOBM Genetics
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 13 Nov 2018


  • Pneumocystis jirovecii
  • Pneumonia
  • Laboratory diagnosis
  • Current methods
  • New alternatives


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