Pneumonia prevention strategies need to be changed according to the Health Protection Agency (HPA).
An HPA study found cases of Pneumocystis jirovecii pneumonia (PCP) have increased by 7% a year since 2000.
PCP, a preventable strain of pneumonia caused by a common fungus, was relatively rare before the 1980s AIDs epidemic but now has a wider “significance”, HPA scientists found.
The study published in Emerging Infectious Diseases concluded that people at risk from catching PCP need “enhanced surveillance”.
Until now the key risk factors for PCP were HIV infection, blood or bone marrow cancers and connective tissue disorders like rheumatoid arthritis.
But the study suggests that pre-existing lung disease is also a risk factor.
“This piece of work is key to our understating of how we treat preventable infections in those with already weakened immune systems due to other underlying conditions,” said Professor Nick Phin, from the HPA respiratory deparment.
Professor Phin, who one of the study’s authors, said: “Particular focus should be given to patients with chronic lung disease, systemic inflammatory diseases, and patients with solid tumors or transplant recipients who do not currently fulfill the criteria for prophylaxis.”
He concluded that when patients are prescribed new immunosuppressive agents, clinicians should consider whether these it might increase the patients’ risk for PCP.