What’s the connection between lemon juice and disseminated candidiasis in my patient with illicit IV drug use?

Lemon juice is often used by IV drug users to help dissolve poorly water soluble street drugs, such as brown heroin or crack-cocaine, and may serve as a vehicle for Candida albicans infection. 1-3

Contamination of lemon juice (either from wild lemons or from the plastic containers) is thought to occur from either the skin and/or oropharynx of the user.1  Other fruit juices such as orange juice as well as raspberry syrup have been implicated as a source of disseminated candidiasis in IV drug users.4

Experimental inoculation of lemons with small numbers of C. albicans has demonstrated rapid growth of the organism at room temperature resulting in inadvertent injection of a large inoculum size. 2 Once inoculated directly into the blood stream, C. albicans disseminates and can present in many ways, including skin lesions, ocular lesions/endophthalmitis, and osteoarticular infections (eg, costochondral, hip joint, and vertebral infections).1  

So it is advisable to not only ask about what recreational drug is being injected but also what it is injected with!

Bonus Pearl: Did you know that although lemon juice is an excellent growth medium for C. albicans, it has bactericidal properties against Staphylococcus aureus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa? 1

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References

  1. Bisbe J, Miro JM, Latorre X, et al. Disseminated candidiasis in addicts who use brown heroin: report of 83 cases and review. Clin Infect Dis 1992;15:910-23. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1457662
  2. Newton-John HGF, Wise K, Looke DFM. Role of the lemon in disseminated candidiasis of heroin abusers. Med j Aust 1984;140:780-81. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.5694/j.1326-5377.1984.tb132597.x?sid=nlm%3Apubmed
  3. Shankland GS, Richardson MD. Source of infection in candida endophthalmitis in drug addicts. Br J Ophthalmol 1986;292:1106-7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1954783/pdf/702.pdf
  4. Scheidegger C, Pietrzak J, Frei R. Methadone diluted with contaminated orange juice or raspberry syrup as a potential source of disseminated candidiasis in drug abusers. Eur J Clin Microbiol Infect Dis 1993;12:229-31. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF01967124
What’s the connection between lemon juice and disseminated candidiasis in my patient with illicit IV drug use?

My patient with chronic alcoholism is showing signs of alcohol withdrawal even though his blood alcohol level (BAL) is still elevated. Is this possible?

Absolutely! For patients with chronic alcohol dependence, any acute decline in their BAL may precipitate withdrawal (1).

For example, if a patient typically drinks enough alcohol on a daily basis to sustain a BAL of 350 mg/dl, any significant drop in BAL (e.g. down to 125 mg/dl) may be associated with early signs of withdrawal such as nervousness, tachycardia and elevated blood pressure.

Another scenario that could lead to withdrawal symptoms despite an elevated BAL involves patients who use both alcohol and benzodiazepines chronically. In such patients— because the 2 substances have cross-reactive effects on the brain— a significant reduction in the dose or frequency of benzodiazepines may also lead to withdrawal despite an elevated BAL.  Also remember that symptoms of benzodiazepine withdrawal may begin within 24 h or up to 2 weeks following its cessation (2).

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Reference

  1. Roffman JL, Stern TA.  Alcohol withdrawal in the setting of elevated blood alcohol levels. Prim Care Companion J Clin Psychiatry. 2006; 8(3):170-173 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1540391/
  2. Greenberg MI. Benzodiazepine withdrawal: potentially fatal, commonly missed, Emergency Medicine News 2001;23:18. https://journals.lww.com/em-news/pages/articleviewer.aspx?year=2001&issue=12000&article=00013&type=Fulltext

 

Contributed by Stephanie Meller, MD, Boston, MA

 

 

My patient with chronic alcoholism is showing signs of alcohol withdrawal even though his blood alcohol level (BAL) is still elevated. Is this possible?