Early use of corticosteroids in infants with a clinical diagnosis of Pneumocystis jiroveci pneumonia in Malawi: a double blinded, randomised clinical trial

Laura Newberry, Bernadette O'Hare, Neil Kennedy, Andrew Selman, Sofia Omar, Pamela Dawson, Kim Stevenson, Yo Nishihara, Samantha Lissauer, Elizabeth Molyneux

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Background: Pneumocystis jiroveci pneumonia (PJP) is the most common opportunistic infection in infants with vertically acquired HIV infection and the most common cause ofdeath in HIV-infected infants.
To determine whether early administration of adjuvant corticosteroids in addition to standard treatment reduces mortality in infants with vertically acquired HIV and clinically diagnosed PJP when co-infection with cytomegalovirus and other pathogens cannot be excluded.
Methods: A double-blind placebo-controlled trial of adjuvant prednisolone treatment in HIV-exposed infants aged 2–6 months admitted to Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital, Blantyre who were diagnosed clinically with PJP was performed. All recruited infants were HIV-exposed, and the HIV status of the infant was confirmed by DNA-PCR. HIV exposed and infected infants as well as HIV-exposed but non-infected infants were included in the study. The protocol provided for the addition of prednisolone to the treatment at 48 hours if there was clinical deterioration or an independent indication for corticosteroid therapy in any patient not receiving it. Oral trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole (TMP/SMX) therapy and full supportive treatment were provided according to established guidelines. Primary outcomes for all patients included survival to hospital
discharge and 6-month post-discharge survival.
Results: It was planned to enroll 200 patients but the trial was stopped early because of recruitment difficulties and a statistically significant result on interim analysis. Seventy eight infants were enrolled between April 2012 and August 2014; 36 infants (46%) were randomised to receive corticosteroids plus standard treatment with TMP/SMX, and 42 infants (54%) received the standard treatment plus placebo. In an intention-to treatanalysis, the risk ratio of in-hospital mortality in the steroid group compared with the standard treatment plus placebo group was 0.53 [95% CI 0.29–0.97, P=0.038]. The risk ratio of mortality at 6 months was 0.63 (95% CI 0.41–0.95, P=0.029). Two children who received steroids developed bloody stools while in hospital.
Conclusion: In infants with a clinical diagnosis of PJP, early use of steroids in addition to conventional TMP/SMX therapy significantly reduced mortality in hospital and 6 months after discharge.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)121-128
JournalPaediatrics and International Child Health
Issue number2
Early online date1 Feb 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • HIV
  • Pneumocystis jiroveci pneumonia
  • Infant


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