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J Chemother. 2003 Feb;15(1):71-5.

Disseminated aspergillosis in intensive care unit patients: an autopsy study.

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Department of Intensive Care, Erasme Hospital, Free University of Brussels, Belgium.


Disseminated aspergillosis is an uncommon but frequently fatal disease in critically ill populations. With studies suggesting that the incidence of this disease is increasing, and with relatively few epidemiological data available in this population, we evaluated cases of disseminated aspergillosis identified at autopsy over a one-year period on a 31-bed mixed medico-surgical intensive care unit (ICU) of an academic university hospital. In 1999, there were 489 deaths out of 2984 ICU admissions, and 222 autopsies were performed. Post-mortem examination demonstrated disseminated aspergillosis involving non-contiguous organs in 6 (2.7%) autopsies and, of these, five patients (2.3% of total) had had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and had been treated with corticosteroids and mechanical ventilation for pulmonary infection. One patient also had granulocytopenia. In each patient, sputum and bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) cultures had been positive for Aspergillus fumigatus after ICU admission but this was considered as colonization and the patients were given fluconazole for suspected candidal infection. In conclusion, COPD patients treated with corticosteroids and presenting with pulmonary infection should be considered at risk for disseminated aspergillosis. The rapidly fatal outcome after ICU admission suggests that colonization with Aspergillus can occur before ICU admission.

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