Background: The widespread use of immunosuppressives in treating systemic autoimmune disorders has resulted in opportunistic infections (OIs) following such therapy. Current data regarding the possibility of infection due to these drugs or from the primary disease, per se, is conflicting. Objectives: We aimed to analyse the profile of patients requiring hospitalization for OIs among those being treated with glucocorticoids and other immunosuppressive agents as part of management of systemic autoimmune disorders and to analyse the host factors in relation to OIs. Method: In this descriptive analysis, all patients hospitalized the Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh, India, under medicinal units for OIs that occurred following and during treatment with corticosteroids and other immunosuppressive agents for treatment of systemic autoimmune disorders from February 2002 to January 2003, were studied. All hospitalized patients received antibiotics according to the nature of infection and sensitivity reports. All relevant clinical details were recorded in a standard pro forma. Descriptive statistics were used. The Institute Ethics Committee's permission was secured prior to study commencement. Results: Nineteen patients (16 female) were admitted because of OIs. Their mean age (± SD) was 37.32 (± 19.9) years. Ten patients had systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), two had SLE with overlap, five had rheumatoid arthritis, and one each had vasculitis and scleroderma with polymyositis. There were 28 infections. One (5.3%) patient had four infections, one (5.3%) had three, six (31.6%) had two, nine (47.4%) had one, and in two (10.5%) patients the infection was not localized. Of the 19 cases, 10 (52.6%) received > 10 mg of prednisolone each day (median = 1130 mg). The remaining nine (47.4%) were on < 10 mg prednisolone each day (median = 880 mg). Methylprednisolone was given to two (6.3%) patients. Bacteria accounted for most of the infections. There were two fungal infections and one patient each with tuberculosis and peritonitis. Infections occurred predominantly in the chest, urine and skin. Septicemia was diagnosed in three patients. There were two deaths, one each with SLE and rheumatoid arthritis. Conclusion: Since infections can occur at low doses of corticosteroids, we suggest that these disorders may be, per se, responsible for an increased risk of infection.
- Opportunistic infections
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