INTRODUCTION: In highly endemic areas, up to 20 % of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-infected persons will develop progressive disseminated histoplasmosis (PDH). Europe is not endemic to histoplasmosis, and the disease is mainly found in immigrants often co-infected with HIV.
METHODS: We present a case of a patient with HIV and PDH highlighting the possible diagnostic difficulties that may arise in a non-endemic area and review the literature of histoplasmosis in the context of HIV infection with special focus on Europe.
DISCUSSION: When cellular immunity wanes (usually at CD4 T-lymphocyte counts <150 cells/μL) histoplasma infection, acquired earlier, can reactivate and disseminate. PDH is an acquired immune deficiency syndrome(AIDS)-defining disease and a life-threatening infection, with a clinical spectrum ranging from an acute, fatal course with lung infiltrates and respiratory failure, shock, coagulopathy and multi-organ failure, to a more subacute disease with focal organ involvement, pancytopenia and hepatosplenomegaly. Mortality rates remain high for untreated patients, but early diagnosis, proper antifungal treatment and early initiation of antiretroviral therapy have improved the prognosis.
CONCLUSION: European infectious diseases physicians, microbiologists and pathologists must be aware of histoplasmosis, particularly when facing HIV-infected immigrants from endemic areas. This is increasingly important due to migration and travel activities from these areas.