Pneumocystis pneumonia, or PCP, is a severe illness that causes lung inflammation and fluid accumulation. Pneumocystis jirovecii, a fungus that spreads via the air, causes it.

This fungus is quite prevalent. Most individuals’ immune systems have beaten it off by age three or four. However, it may make those with compromised immune systems, such as HIV, extremely ill.

Moreover, pneumocystis pneumonia may also damage other body regions, including the bone marrow, liver, and lymph nodes, but this is unusual.


You may not have symptoms early in the illness, or they may be minor. Symptoms of pneumocystis pneumonia include:

  • Wheezing or dry cough
  • Fatigue
  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Breath shortness
  • Chest pain
  • Weight loss

In HIV patients, symptoms normally appear gradually over many weeks. They usually begin over a few days in people whose immune systems are already weak for another cause.


A doctor will use a microscope to examine for fungal evidence in your lungs’ fluid or tissue. Your doctor will assist you in coughing up fluid. A bronchoscope is a specific gadget that passes into your mouth and airways to obtain a sample. They might also do a biopsy, which involves extracting a small number of cells from your lung using a needle or a knife.

Additionally, a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test duplicates particular bits of DNA to detect lower levels of the fungus in samples.

Furthermore, your doctor may order a blood test or chest x-ray to look for low oxygen levels or high amounts of something called beta-D-glucan.


Pneumocystis pneumonia is often treated with two antibiotics, TMP/SMX, trimethoprim, and sulfamethoxazole (Septra, Cotrim, Bactrim). Depending on your condition, you will get them as tablets to swallow or a needle inserted into your vein (through IV) at the clinic or hospital.

Other anti-infection medications include:

  • Clindamycin (Cleocin) in combination with primaquine
  • Pentamidine (Pentam, NebuPent) be inhaled using a piece of nebulizer equipment (If your infection is severe, you may be given a shot)
  • Atovaquone (Mepron) in a liquid to be taken with meals
  • Dapsone with or without trimethoprim (Primsol)

When your oxygen levels are low, corticosteroids may also assist in some instances.

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