Treatment regimens for patients with toxoplasmic encephalitis

H B Fung, H L Kirschenbaum
Clinical Therapeutics 1996, 18 (6): 1037-56; discussion 1036
Toxoplasma gondii is an obligate intracellular parasitic protozoan that infects a variety of warm-blooded animals, including humans. Infection is usually asymptomatic in immunocompetent individuals but may be devastating in immunocompromised individuals such as those with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). Clinical manifestations of infection in immunocompromised patients include the development of encephalitis. It has been estimated that approximately 30% of patients with AIDS who are latently infected will eventually develop toxoplasmic encephalitis. The most common regimen used to treat toxoplasmic encephalitis is a combination of pyrimethamine 50 to 100 mg/d and sulfadiazine 4 to 8 g/d, with or without folinic acid 10 mg/d. This regimen, however, commonly leads to adverse effects or relapses. Other pharmacologic approaches include the use of clindamycin rather than sulfadiazine, the macrolide antibiotics, atovaquone, 5-fluorouracil, trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole, minocycline or doxycycline, trimetrexate with folinic acid, dapsone, rifabutin, pentamidine, and diclazuril. None of these alternative regimens has been proven to be more effective than the standard pharmacologic therapy. An evolving approach is the use of immunotherapy, such as interleukin-2, -6, and -12; interferon-gamma; and alpha-tumor necrosis factor. Restoring a competent immune system may be the only cure for toxoplasmosis and other opportunistic infections.

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