Send to

Choose Destination
Int J Med Microbiol. 2002 Oct;292(5-6):391-404.


Author information

Department of Molecular Genetics, Biochemistry and Microbiology, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH 45220-0524, USA.


Pneumocystis organisms can cause pneumonia in mammals that lack a strong immune defense. The genus Pneumocystis contains many different organisms that can be distinguished by DNA sequence analysis. These different organisms are different species of yeast-like fungi that are most closely related to the ascomycete, Schizosaccharomyces pombe. Each species of Pneumocystis appears to be specific for the mammal in which it is found. The species that infects humans is Pneumocystis jiroveci. P. jiroveci has not been found in any other mammal and the species of Pneumocystis found in other mammals have not been seen in humans. Genetic variation among P. jiroveci samples is common, suggesting that there are many strains. Strain analysis shows that adults can be infected by more than one strain, and suggests that pneumonia can be the result of infection occurring proximal to the time of disease, rather than to reactivation of dormant organisms acquired in early childhood. Nevertheless, long-term colonisation may be occurring. A large fraction of normal children and animals show evidence of infection. A Pneumocystis species that grows in rats has been shown to possess a complex genetic system for surface antigen variation, a strategy employed by other microbes that dwell in immunocompetent hosts. These findings, together with strong host specificity, suggest that Pneumocystis species may be obligate parasites. The source of infection is not clear. Pneumocystis DNA is detectable in the air, but is scarce except in environments occupied by individuals with Pneumocystis pneumonia. In a few cases, there is direct evidence of person to person transmission. In general, however, patients and their contacts have been found to have different strains of P. jiroveci.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Elsevier Science
Loading ...
Support Center