The immunopathogenesis and treatment of tuberculous pericardial effusions in a population with a high prevalence of infection with the human immunodeficiency virus

Reuter, Helmuth (2005-12)

Thesis (DMed (Medicine. Internal Medicine))-University of Stellenbosch, 2005.


Mycobacterium tuberculosis (M. tuberculosis) accounts for more adult deaths than any other infectious agents. The present study included 162 patients with tuberculous pericarditis; 50% of the tuberculous pericarditis patients studied were human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) positive, compared to only 4.2% of patients who presented with non-tuberculous pericardial effusions. A steady year-to-year rise in HIV prevalence was observed in this 6-year study. Although the prognosis of pericardial tuberculosis (TB) is excellent with appropriate medical treatment, untreated pericardial TB has a mortality of 80-85%. It is thus important to diagnose tuberculous pericarditis efficiently. Traditionally, the diagnosis of pericardial TB is established by positive mycobacterial culture and/or histological evidence of necrotising granulomatous inflammation of the pericardium. Our study confirmed the insensitivity of pericardial fluid culture and pericardial biopsy in the diagnosis of pericardial TB, and at the time of clinical decision-making, results were usually not available. To overcome these difficulties, we explored various alternative strategies and this resulted in two diagnostic tools, namely a diagnostic rule and a diagnostic algorithm or classification tree. By means of classification and regression tree analysis, we allocated a weighted diagnostic index to each of five independently predictive features (fever, night sweats, weight loss, serum globulin >40 g/L and peripheral blood leukocyte count <10x109/L). A total diagnostic index of 6 or more corresponded to 82-86% sensitivity and 76-87% specificity for a diagnosis of tuberculous pericarditis. When possible, pericardial fluid should be aspirated to determine adenosine deaminase (ADA) levels and pericardial differential leukocyte counts. Fluid should also be sent for Gram stain and culture. The proposed diagnostic classification tree utilises the independently predictive attributes of pericardial adenosine deaminase levels, pericardial fluid lymphocyte/neutrophil ratios, peripheral leukocyte counts and the HIV status. Applying this prediction model to our entire data set of 233 patients resulted in 96% sensitivity and 97% specificity for the correct diagnosis of tuberculous pericarditis. Generally, patients were critically ill at the time of enrolment; 90% of tuberculous pericarditis presented with echocardiographic features of cardiac tamponade. Echoguided percutaneous pericardiocentesis with an indwelling catheter and intermittent daily aspiration was highly effective and safe. It is likely that the combination of this drainage technique and the early initiation of anti-tuberculous chemotherapy contributed to the almost complete absence of constriction in the patients studied, and our data do not support the routine use of adjunctive corticosteroids in patients with tuberculous pericarditis. Tuberculous exudates result from a Th1 mediated immune response characterised by lymphocyte dominance, significantly elevated levels of gamma-interferon (IFN-γ) and undetectable levels of interleukin-4 (IL-4). IFN-γ levels were not influenced by HIV status in spite of the severely diminished pericardial CD4+ lymphocyte counts observed in this study. It is thus likely that in HIV positive patients IFN-γ production is partly maintained by activated CD8+ T cells, which were significantly elevated in HIV positive patients compared to HIV negative tuberculous pericarditis patients. This finding underlines the importance of IFN-γ in the human immune response against M. tuberculosis. We also demonstrated that the presence of ADA in pericardial fluids reflects the activity of the cellular immune response. Both IFN-γ and ADA can be utilised as sensitive and specific diagnostic tools for pericardial TB.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL:
This item appears in the following collections: