Three HIV positive subjects presented with symptoms and radiographic changes suggestive of Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia. Methenamine silver staining of bronchoscopic alveolar lavage (BAL) fluid was negative (from one sample in one patient and two samples in the other two patients). Open lung biopsy was performed because of uncertain clinical progress and diagnosis; all three patients were found to have multiple pulmonary granulomata encasing numerous P carinii organisms. DNA amplification, using P carinii specific oligonucleotides, was performed on stored bronchoscopic BAL samples. P carinii specific amplification product was detected by ethidium bromide staining after electrophoretic separation on agarose gel in one case, and by the more sensitive technique of oligohybridisation in all three cases. In granulomatous P carinii pneumonia organisms are rarely identified in bronchoscopic alveolar lavage samples using histochemical staining, but are detectable by DNA amplification, although not at levels which can be readily distinguished from low, subclinical infection.
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