My patient with COPD on prednisone with recurrent pneumonia has a low serum IgG level.  Can corticosteroids lower serum immunoglobulin levels?

Yes! Both exogenous and endogenous hypercortisolism may be associated with a drop in serum immunoglobulin levels, particularly IgG, which may persist even after discontinuation of steroid treatment.1-4 This means that a low serum IgG level in a patient on corticosteroids should be interpreted with caution and may not necessarily suggest primary antibody deficiency.

Although some early studies did not find a significant impact of corticosteroids on immunoglobulin levels, several subsequent studies found otherwise.  A 1978 study involving atopic asthmatic patients (averaging 16.8 mg prednisone daily) found that mean serum IgG significantly decreased (-22%) with milder drop in IgA levels (-10%) and no drop in serum IgM levels.2 Of interest, IgE level increased significantly initially but later dropped as well. More importantly, mean serum IgG levels remained significantly decreased an average of 22 days after corticosteroids were discontinued.

More recently, in a study involving patients with giant cell arteritis and polymyalgia rheumatica on corticosteroids, 58% developed antibody deficiency with the great majority involving IgG, either alone or along with other immunoglobulins.3 The reduction of IgG persisted even after discontinuation of corticosteroids in nearly 50% of patients. Whether low serum immunoglobulins due to corticosteroids alone significantly increase susceptibility to infections is unclear, however.

In our patient with COPD on prednisone, if serum IgG level is found to be low and a primary antibody deficiency is still suspected, a functional assessment of the antibody production after active immunization (eg, polysaccharide pneumococcal vaccine, tetanus toxoid) may be necessary. 1 An adequate antibody response to active immunization makes primary immunodeficiency unlikely. 

 

Bonus Pearl: Did you know that corticosteroid-induced hypogammaglobulinemia may be in part related to reduced IgG production as well as an increase in IgG catabolism?1,4

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References

  1. Sarcevic J, Cavelti-Weder C, Berger CT, et al. Case report-secondary antibody deficiency due to endogenous hypercortisolism. Frontiers in Immunology 2020;11:1435. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fimmu.2020.01435/full
  2. Settipane GA, Pudupakkam RK, McGowan JH. Corticosteroid effect on immunoglobulins. J Allergy Clin Immunol 1978;62: 162-6. https://www.jacionline.org/article/0091-6749(78)90101-X/pdf
  3. Wirsum C, Glaser C, Gutenberger S, et al. Secondary antibody deficiency in glucocorticoid therapy clearly differs from primary antibody deficiency. J Clin Immunol 2016;36:406-12. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10875-016-0264-7
  4. McMillan R, Longmire R, Yelenosky R. The effect of corticosteroids on human IgG synthesis. J Immunol 1976;116:1592-1595. https://www.jimmunol.org/content/116/6/1592

Disclosures: The listed questions and answers are solely the responsibility of the author and do not necessarily represent the official views of Mercy Hospital-St. Louis, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Catalyst, Harvard University, their affiliate academic healthcare centers, or its contributors. Although every effort has been made to provide accurate information, the author is far from being perfect. The reader is urged to verify the content of the material with other sources as deemed appropriate and exercise clinical judgment in the interpretation and application of the information provided herein. No responsibility for an adverse outcome or guarantees for a favorable clinical result is assumed by the author. Thank you!

My patient with COPD on prednisone with recurrent pneumonia has a low serum IgG level.  Can corticosteroids lower serum immunoglobulin levels?

Is lung ultrasound useful in evaluating patients with dyspnea?

Yes! Increasingly, lung ultrasound (particularly point-of-care ultrasound-POCUS) is performed at bedside to help explain the cause of dyspnea.  Here are some tips.

First, obtain images by placing the transducer in the intercostal space (usually 3 regions/hemithorax) with the orientation marker pointing cephalad. 1,2  Now look at the pleural line, the horizontal hyperechoic structure between 2 ribs  (Figure 1). To and fro movement of the pleural line reflects apposition of the visceral and parietal pleura and is a normal finding (“lung sliding”).  Then look for additional horizontal hyperechoic lines visualized deep to the pleural line (“A-lines”) which are reverberation artifacts, reflecting air below the pleura (Clip/Figure 1).2 

You should also look for vertical laser like hyperechoic artifacts that arise from the pleural line and extend to the bottom of the display which may represent  “comet tails” or “B-lines” (Clip/Figure 2).1,3,4 These are reverberation artifacts created by the acoustic impedance difference between widened, fluid filled septa and air-filled alveoli.3,5  Three or more B-lines within a single intercostal space is considered pathological.4

One of the practical uses of lung ultrasound is in the evaluation of dyspnea in a patient with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).6 The presence of lung sliding and bilateral A-lines in the absence of B-lines can help rule out pneumothorax, pneumonia and pulmonary edema and steer you toward other diagnoses (eg, COPD exacerbation) as cause of dyspnea.

You can even take it a step further. Focal unilateral B-lines suggest possible pneumonia while diffuse bilateral B-lines (interstitial syndrome) would be more consistent with pulmonary edema.

As usual, the patient’s history, physical examination and available laboratory data must be taken into consideration when interpreting lung ultrasound findings.2,4

Contributed by Woo Moon, D.O., Department of Medicine, Mercy-St. Louis, St. Louis, Missouri

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Figure 1 

 

 

Clip 1

 

 

Figure 2

 

Clip 2

 

References

  1. Lichtenstein DA. Lung ultrasound in the critically ill. Ann Intensive Care 2014;4(1): https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24401163/ 
  2. Soni MD MS NJ, Arntfield MD FRCPC R, Kory MD MPA P. Point of Care Ultrasound. 2nd ed. St. Louis, MO: Elsevier; 2019.
  3. Lichtenstein DA, Mezière GA. Relevance of lung ultrasound in the diagnosis of acute respiratory failure: the BLUE protocol. Chest 2008;134(1):117–25. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18403664/ 
  4. Volpicelli G, Elbarbary M, Blaivas M, et al. International evidence-based recommendations for point-of-care lung ultrasound. Intensive Care Med 2012;38(4):577–91. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22392031/ 
  5. Lichtenstein D, Mézière G, Biderman P, Gepner A, Barré O. The comet-tail artifact. An ultrasound sign of alveolar-interstitial syndrome. Am J Respir Crit Care Med 1997;156(5):1640–6. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9372688/
  6. Qaseem A, Etxeandia-Ikobaltzeta I, Mustafa RA, et al. Appropriate Use of Point-of-Care Ultrasonography in Patients With Acute Dyspnea in Emergency Department or Inpatient Settings: A Clinical Guideline From the American College of Physicians. Ann Intern Med 2021;174(7):985–93. https://www.acpjournals.org/doi/10.7326/m20-7844 

Disclosures: The listed questions and answers are solely the responsibility of the author and do not necessarily represent the official views of Mercy Hospital-St. Louis, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Catalyst, Harvard University, their affiliate academic healthcare centers, or its contributors. Although every effort has been made to provide accurate information, the author is far from being perfect. The reader is urged to verify the content of the material with other sources as deemed appropriate and exercise clinical judgment in the interpretation and application of the information provided herein. No responsibility for an adverse outcome or guarantees for a favorable clinical result is assumed by the author. Thank you!

Is lung ultrasound useful in evaluating patients with dyspnea?

Should patients previously immunized against Covid-19 receive selected monoclonal antibodies when diagnosed with a breakthrough infection?

Although published studies supporting monoclonal antibody therapy in mild to moderate Covid-19 preceded availability of Covid-19 vaccines and the emergence of new variants of concern,1,2 given the possibility of severe breakthrough Covid-19 in high risk vaccinated patients with suboptimal immunity and the retained activity of certain monoclonal antibody products (ie, casirivimab and imdevimab-Regeneron-Cov and sotrovimab) against common variants of SARS-CoV-2 , their use is recommended even in vaccinated individuals with mild to moderate Covid-19.3-5

In fact, the CDC states that “For people who have received one or more doses of Covid-19 vaccine and subsequently experience SARS-CoV-2 infection, prior receipt of a Covid-19 vaccine should not affect treatment decisions (including use of monoclonal antibodies, convalescent plasma, antiviral treatment, or corticosteroid administration) or timing of such treatment.”3

In its July 30, 2021 Emergency Authorization Use (EUA) letter regarding use of casirivimab and imdevimab – REGEN-COV), the FDA does not distinguish between vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals for its indications,4 similar to those of guidelines posted by the Department of Health and Human Services and the NIH.5-6

When indicated, high risk vaccinated individuals with Covid-19 should be offered  an FDA approved (under EUA currently) monoclonal antibody product (such as  casirivimab and imdevimab antibody cocktail or sotrovimab) soon after diagnosis and certainly no later than 10 days.

Vaccinated individuals with mild to moderate Covid-19 not requiring hospitalization and for whom monoclonal antibody treatment may be indicated include older patients and those with risk factors for severe disease, such as obesity, pregnancy, chronic kidney disease, chronic lung disease (including COPD), immunocompromised state, serious heart conditions (eg, heart failure, coronary artery disease, cardiomyopathies), sickle cell disease and type 2 diabetes.7

Of note, casirivimab and imdevimab is indicated for adults (weighing at least 40 kg) and children 12 years or older and is administered by IV infusion or subcutaneously, if IV infusion is not feasible and would lead to delay in treatment.4

Bonus Pearl: Did you know that in phase III trials, casirivimab and imdevimab  antibody cocktail reduced hospitalization or death by 70% in non-hospitalized patients with Covid-19?2

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References

  1. Interim clinical considerations for use of Covid-19 vaccines currently authorized in the United States. 2021. Available at https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/covid-19/info-by-product/clinical-considerations.html. Accessed August 22, 2021.
  2. March 23, 2021 https://www.roche.com/media/releases/med-cor-2021-03-23.htm
  3. Dougan M, Nirula A, Azizad M, et al. Bamlanivimab plus Etesevimab in mild or moderate Covid-19. N Engl J Med, July 14, 2021. https://www.nejm.org/doi/10.1056/NEJMoa2102685
  4. Letter, EUA REGEN-COV, July 30, 2021. https://www.fda.gov/media/145610/download
  5. Department of Health and Human Services. High risk Covid-19 outpatients may avoid hospitalization with monoclonal antibody treatment. July 16, 2021. https://combatcovid.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/documents/High-Risk-COVID-19-Outpatients-072021.pdf
  6. Anti-SARS Cov-2 monoclonal antibodies. Accessed August 22, 2021. https://www.covid19treatmentguidelines.nih.gov/therapies/anti-sars-cov-2-antibody-products/anti-sars-cov-2-monoclonal-antibodies/
  7. Science brief: evidence used to update the list of underlying medical conditions that increase a person’s risk of severe illness from Covid-19. Accessed August 22, 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/science/science-briefs/underlying-evidence-table.html

Disclosures: The listed questions and answers are solely the responsibility of the author and do not necessarily represent the official views of Mercy-St. Louis, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Catalyst, Harvard University, their affiliate healthcare centers, or its contributors. Although every effort has been made to provide accurate information, the author is far from being perfect. The reader is urged to verify the content of the material with other sources as deemed appropriate and exercise clinical judgment in the interpretation and application of the information provided herein. No responsibility for an adverse outcome or guarantees for a favorable clinical result is assumed by the author. Thank you!

Should patients previously immunized against Covid-19 receive selected monoclonal antibodies when diagnosed with a breakthrough infection?

What’s the connection between elevated troponins and Covid-19?

Elevated cardiac troponins or myocardial injury (defined as troponin levels above the 99th percentile upper reference range) are not uncommon in Covid-19, having been reported in ~10-30% of hospitalized patient and usually observed in the absence of acute coronary syndrome (ACS) (1-4).

 
Elevated troponins have been associated with increased risk of in-hospital mortality in Covid-19. The prevalence of elevated troponins among patients who died was 76% compared to 10% among survivors in 1 Chinese study (3). Another study from China found increasing troponin levels over a 22 day period among those who died while troponin levels remained low in those who survived (5).

 
Risk factors for elevated troponins in Covid-19 include older age, cardiovascular comorbidities (eg, hypertension, coronary heart disease, heart failure), diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, chronic renal failure, and the presence of a high inflammatory state, as indicated by elevated inflammatory markers such as C-reactive protein (CRP) (3).

 
Several mechanisms have been proposed to explain elevated troponins in Covid-19, including cytokine-induced myocardial injury, microangiopathy due to prothrombotic state, myocardial infarction (type I due to plaque rupture or type II due to oxygen supply/demand imbalance), and myocarditis either due to direct viral invasion or indirectly through immune-mediated mechanisms (1,2).

 
Patients with Covid-19 and modest troponin elevation with rapid fall in the absence of signs or symptoms of ACS, may have type II myocardial infarction due to demand ischemia, particularly in the setting of coronary disease. In contrast, more protracted elevation of troponins associated with high inflammatory markers such as CRP is suggestive of hyperinflammatory myocardial injury (1).

 

It will be interesting to see if trials of anti-inflammatory agents, such as colchicine and anti-interleukin-I, will have an impact on the troponin levels in Covid-19 patients (1).

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References
1. Cremer PC. SARS-CoV-2 and myocardial injury: few answers, many questions. Clev Clin J Med. Posted April 8, 2020. Doi:10.3949/ccjm.87a.ccc001 https://www.ccjm.org/content/early/2020/05/12/ccjm.87a.ccc001
2. Tersalvi G, Vicenzi M, Calabretta D, et al. Elevated troponin in patients with coronavirus disease 2019:possible mechanisms. J Card Failure 2020; https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32315733/
3. Shi S, Qin M, Cai Y, et al. Characteristics and clinical significance of myocardial injury in patients with severe coronavirus disease 2019. Eur Heart J 2020. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32391877/
4. Richardson S, Hirsch JS, Narasimhan M, et al. Presenting characteristics, comorbidities, and outcomes among 5700 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 in the New York City area. JAMA 2020;323:2052-59. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2765184
5. Zhou F, YU T, Du R, et al. Clinical course and risk factors for mortality of adult inpatients with COVID-19 in Wuhan, China: a retrospective cohort study. Lancet 2020;395:1054-62. https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)30566-3/fulltext

Disclosures: The listed questions and answers are solely the responsibility of the author and do not necessarily represent the official views of Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Catalyst, Harvard University, its affiliate academic healthcare centers, or its contributors. Although every effort has been made to provide accurate information, the author is far from being perfect. The reader is urged to verify the content of the material with other sources as deemed appropriate and exercise clinical judgment in the interpretation and application of the information provided herein. No responsibility for an adverse outcome or guarantees for a favorable clinical result is assumed by the author. Thank you!

 

What’s the connection between elevated troponins and Covid-19?

Why might hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin be effective against the novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2/Covid-19?

Repurposing of older drugs such as chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine (HC) and more recently, azithromycin (AZ), has received much attention recently in the treatment of Covid-19. Both HC and AZ have immune modulating and antiviral activity that may potentially be effective in our fight against Covid-19.

 
Chloroquine/HC: Chloroquine is an old drug used for its antimalarial activity as well as for its immune modulation and anti-inflammatory properties. It is active in mice against a variety of viruses, including some enteroviruses, Zika virus, and influenza A H5N1 (1). Both chloroquine and HC are active in vitro against Covid-19, though HC appears to be more active (2).

 
Azithromycin: A macrolide often used for treatment of bacterial respiratory tract infections but also with anti-inflammatory and antiviral activity. Azithromycin has been shown to augment interferon response in rhinovirus-infected bronchial epithelial cells as well as in an experimental mouse model of asthma exacerbation (3,4). It also has activity against Zika virus (5). As recently as 2016, some authors opined that macrolides may be useful in pandemic influenza characterized by excessive inflammatory cytokine production because of their anti-inflammatory and interferon-boosting potential (6).

 
March 2020 French clinical trial: A small non-randomized clinical trial involving 36 confirmed Covid-19 patients (mean age 45 y) reported that HC (200 mg 3x/day x 10 days) was associated with rapid viral clearance from nasopharynx, often within 3-6 days (7). The effect was even more pronounced when AZ (500 mg 1st day, followed by 250 mg daily x 4 days) was added in 6 patients.

It’s worth emphasizing that most subjects in this study were either asymptomatic (17%) or had mild disease with upper respiratory tract infection symptoms only (61%). Pneumonia was diagnosed in only 6 patients.  A significant number of patients in the treatment arm also dropped out of the study, some due to ICU transfer.

 
Although such preliminary reports appear promising, the proof of the efficacy and safety of HC and/or AZ in the treatment of Covid-19 awaits larger properly designed clinical studies. Stay tuned!

 

 

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References
1. Touret F, de Lamballerie X. Of chloroquine and COVID-19. Antiviral Research 2020;177. 104762. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/32147496
2. Yao X, Ye F, Zhang M, et al. In vitro antiviral activity and projection of optimized dosing design of hydroxychloroquine for the treatment of severe acute respirartory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). Clin Infect Dis 2020, March 9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/32150618
3. Menzel M, Akbarshai H, Bjermer L, et al. Azithromycin induces anti-viral effects in cultured bronchial epithelial cells from COPD patients. Scientific Reports 2016;6:28698. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4923851/
4. Menzel M, Akbarshai H, Uller L. Azithromycin exhibits interferon-inducing properties in an experimental mouse model of asthma exacerbation. Eur Resp J 2015;46:PA5095. https://erj.ersjournas.com/content/46/suppl_59/PA5095
5. Retallack H, Di Lullo E, Knopp AC, et al. Zika virus cell tropism in the developing human brain and inhibition by azithromycin. Proc Nat Acad Sci USA 2016;113:14408-13. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5167169/
6. Porter JD, Watson J, Roberts LR, et al. Identification of novel macrolides with antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and type I and III-IFN-augmenting activity in airway epithelium. J Antimicrob Chemother 2016;71:2767-81. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5031920/
7. Gautret P, Lagier JC, Parola P, et al. Hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin as a treatment of COVID-19:results of an open-label non-randomized clinical trial. International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents—In Press 17 March 2020-DOI: 10.1016/j.ijantimicag.2020.105949 . https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0924857920300996

 

Disclosures: The listed questions and answers are solely the responsibility of the author and do not necessarily represent the official views of Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Catalyst, Harvard University, its affiliate academic healthcare centers, or its contributors. Although every effort has been made to provide accurate information, the author is far from being perfect. The reader is urged to verify the content of the material with other sources as deemed appropriate and exercise clinical judgment in the interpretation and application of the information provided herein. No responsibility for an adverse outcome or guarantees for a favorable clinical result is assumed by the author. Thank you!

Why might hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin be effective against the novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2/Covid-19?

What’s causing an isolated GGT elevation in my patient with an abnormal alkaline phosphatase on her routine admission lab?

Although serum gamma-glutamyl transpeptidase or GGT is a very sensitive test for liver disease, especially of biliary origin, it’s by no means a very specific test. Besides the liver, GGT is found in the kidneys, pancreas, prostate, heart, brain, and seminal vesicles but not in bone (1-4).

 
Obesity, alcohol consumption and drugs are common causes of GGT elevation (2). As early as 1960s, elevated GGT was reported in such seemingly disparate conditions as diabetes mellitus, congestive heart failure, myocardial infarction, nephrotic syndrome and renal neoplasm (3). Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, viral hepatitis, biliary obstruction, COPD, liver metastasis, drug-induced liver injury can all cause GGT elevation (1-4).

 
An isolated GGT does not necessarily indicate serious or progressive liver disease. That’s one reason it’s often not included in routine “liver panel” lab tests (1).

What to do when GGT is high but other liver panel tests such as ALT, AST, albumin, and bilirubin are normal? If your patient is at risk of acquired liver disease, then further workup may be necessary (eg, hepatitis B and C screening tests). Alcohol consumption should be queried. Don’t forget conditions associated with iron overload. If your patient is obese, diabetic or has elevated both lipids, an ultrasound of the liver to look for fatty liver should be considered. In the absence of risk factors, symptoms, or physical exam suggestive of liver disease, isolated GGT elevation should not require further investigation (1).

 
One good thing that may come out of finding an isolated elevated GGT is to encourage your patient to curb alcohol consumption or lose weight when indicated. But don’t rely on a normal GGT to rule out heavy alcohol consumption as it may miss 70% to 80% of cases (6)! 

 
Bonus Pearl: Did you know that GGT activity is thought to increase in alcohol use due to its role in maintaining intracellular glutathione, an anti-oxidant, at adequate levels to protect cells from oxidative stress caused by alcohol?

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References

1. Carey WD. How should a patient with an isolated GGT elevation be evaluated? Clev Clin J Med 2000;67:315-16. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10832186
2. Newsome PN, Cramb R, Davison SM, et al. Guidelines on the management of abnormal liver blood tests. Gut 2018;67:6-19. https://gut.bmj.com/content/gutjnl/67/1/6.full.pdf
3. Whitfield JB, Pounder RE, Neale G, et al. Serum gamma-glutamyl transpeptidase activity in liver disease. Gut 1972;13:702-8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/4404786
4. Tekin O, Uraldi C, Isik B, et al. Clinical importance of gamma glutamyltransferase in the Ankara-Pursaklar region of Turkey. Medscape General Medicine 2004;6(1):e16. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1140713/
5. Van Beek JHDA, de Moor MHM, Geels LM, et al. The association of alcohol intake with gamma-glutamyl transferase (GGT) levels:evidence for correlated genetic effects. Drug Alcohol Depend 2014;134:99-105. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3909645/

6. Bertholet N, Winter MR, Cheng DM, et al. How accurate are blood (or breath) tests for identifying self-reported heavy drinking among people with alcohol dependence? Alcohol and Alcoholism 2014;49:423-29. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4060735/pdf/agu016.pdf

What’s causing an isolated GGT elevation in my patient with an abnormal alkaline phosphatase on her routine admission lab?

How long should I treat my patient with urinary tract infection and E. Coli bacteremia?

Although traditionally 7 to 14 days of antibiotic therapy has been recommended for Gram-negative bacteremia, more recent studies suggest that shorter antibiotic treatment courses are as effective as longer treatments for a variety of infections, particuarly those due to Enterobacteriaceae (eg, E. Coli, Klebsiella sp) in patients with low severity illness (1). 

Keep in mind that short course therapy may not apply to all patients with UTI and bacteremia, such as those with prostatitis (not included in the most recent study [1,2]), which requires longer course of antibiotics (3)

 
A 2019 randomized-controlled study involving primarily patients with bacteremia caused by E. Coli or Klebsiella sp. (~75%) with most cases associated with UTI (~70%) found that 7 days was as effective as 14 days of treatment in hemodynamically stable patients who are afebrile for at least 48 hours without an ongoing focus of infection (1). More specifically, there was no significant difference between the 2 groups in the rates of relapse of bacteremia or mortality at 14 or 28 days.

 
An accompanying editorial concluded that “7 days of treatment may be sufficient for hospitalized, non-critically ill patients with Gram-negative bacteremia and with signs of early response to treatment” (4)  Again, the accent should be on hemodynamically stable patients who respond rapidly to treatment. 

 
Bonus Pearl: While on the subject of shorter course antibiotic therapy, a 2016 “mantra” article nicely summarizes more recent suggestions for common infectious disease conditions (5). Obviously, clinical judgment should be exercised in all cases.
• Community-acquired pneumonia                               3-5 days (vs 7-10 days)
• Nosocomial pneumonia                                                 8 days or less (vs 10-15 days)
• Pyelonephritis                                                                  5-7 days (vs 10-14 days)
• Intraabdominal infection                                             4 days (vs 10 days)
• COPD acute exacerbation                                             5 days or less (vs >6 days)
• Acute bacterial sinusitis                                               5 days (vs 10 days)
• Cellulitis                                                                            5-6 days (vs 10 days)

 

 

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References
1. Yahav D, Franceschini E, Koppel F, et al. Seven versus 14 days of antibiotic therapy for uncomplicated Gram-negative bacteremia: A noninferiority randomized controlled trial. Clin Infect Dis 2019; 69:1091-8. https://academic.oup.com/cid/article/69/7/1091/5237874       2. Yahav D, Mussini C, Leibovici L, et al. Reply to “Should we treat bacteremic prostatitis for 7 days”.  Clin Infect Dis 2010;70:751-3. DOI:10:1093/cid/ciz393.

3.  De Greef J, Doyen L, Hnrard S, et al. Should we treat bacteremic prostatitis for 7 days? Clin Infect Dis 2020;70:351https://academic.oup.com/cid/article-abstract/70/2/351/5488067?redirectedFrom=fulltext
4. Daneman D, Fowler RA. Shortening antibiotic treatment durations for bacteremia. Clin Infect Dis 2019;69:1099-1100. https://academic.oup.com/cid/article-abstract/69/7/1099/5237877?redirectedFrom=fulltext
5. Spellberg B. The new antibiotic mantra: “ Shorter is better”. JAMA Intern Med 2016;176:1254-55. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/article-abstract/2536180

How long should I treat my patient with urinary tract infection and E. Coli bacteremia?

When should I suspect invasive pulmonary aspergillosis in my patient with COPD exacerbation?

Think of invasive pulmonary aspergillosis (IPA) in your patient when she or he has a COPD exacerbation that appears refractory to broad-spectrum antibiotics and high doses of steroids. Heighten your suspicion even more in patients with severe-steroid dependent COPD, presence of a new pulmonary infiltrate or isolation of Aspergillus spp from respiratory cultures. 1

It’s worth remembering that although dyspnea and bronchospasm are found in most COPD patients with IPA, in contrast to haematological patients, fever, chest pain and hemoptysis are usually absent in this patient population.1

Diagnosis of IPA in this patient population is challenging for several reasons including: 1. A definitive or “proven” diagnosis requires histopathologic evidence of Aspergillus invasion of lung tissue which is not possible without subjecting an already fragile patient to invasive procedures (eg, lung aspiration or biopsy); 2. In contrast to IPA in highly susceptible immunocompromised patients with cancer and recipients of hematopoietic stem cell transplants, standardized definition of IPA in patients with COPD is lacking; 1,3 and 3. Frequent colonization of the respiratory tract of COPD patients with Aspergillus spp (16.3 per 1000 COPD admission in 1 study) 4,5, makes it difficult to diagnose IPA based on cultures alone.

Aside from respiratory cultures, another non-invasive test, serum galactomannan (GM, a polysaccharide antigen that exists primarily in the cell walls of Aspergillus spp and released into the blood during its growth phase 6) may have some utility in suggesting IPA in COPD patients, albeit with a mediocre sensitivity (~30-60%) but respectable specificity (>80 %). In contrast, bronchoalveolar lavage fluid GM may have better sensitivity  (~75%-90%) with similar specificity as that of serum GM in the diagnosis of IPA in these patients 7-8

Bonus pearl: Did you know that the incidence of IPA appears to be increasing in COPD patients requiring ICU admission, with reported mortality rates of 67% to 100%? 7

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References

  1. Bulpa P, Dive A, Sibille Y. Invasive pulmonary aspergillosis in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Eur Res J 2007;30:782-800. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17906086
  2. Bulpa P, Bihin B, Dimopoulos G, et al. Which algorithm diagnoses invasive pulmonary aspergillosis best in ICU patietns with COPD? Eur Resir J 2017;50:1700532 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28954783
  3. Barberan J, Garcia-Perez FJ, Villena V, et al. Development of aspergillosis in a cohort of non-neutropenic, non-transplant patients colonized by Aspergillus spp. BMC Infect Dis 2017;17:34. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1186/s12879-016-2143-5
  4. Guinea J, Torres-Narbona M, Gijon P, et al. Pulmonary aspergillosis in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: incidence, risk factors, and outcome. Clin Microbiol Infect 2010; 16:870-77. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1198743X14617432
  5. Blot Stijn I, Taccone FS, Van den Abeele A-M, et al. A clinical algorithm to diagnose invasive pulmonary aspergillosis in critically ill patients. Am J Respir Crit Care Med 202;186:56-64. https://www.atsjournals.org/doi/full/10.1164/rccm.201111-1978OC
  6. Pfeiffer CD, Fine JP, Safdar N. Diagnosis of invasive aspergillosis using a galactomannan assay: a meta-analysis. Clin Infect Dis 2006;42:1417-27. https://academic.oup.com/cid/article/42/10/1417/278148
  7. He H, Ding L, Sun B, et al. Role of galactomannan determinations in bronchoalveolar lavage fluid samples from critically ill patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease for the diagnosis of invasive pulmonary aspergillosis: a prospective study. Critical Care 2012;16:R138. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5066034/
  8. Zhou W, Li H, Zhang Y, et al. Diagnostic value of galactomannan antigen test in serum and bronchoalveolar lavage fluid samples from patients with nonneutropenic invasive pulmonary aspergillosis. J Clin Microbiol 2017;55:2153-61. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28446576
When should I suspect invasive pulmonary aspergillosis in my patient with COPD exacerbation?

My patient with COPD exacerbation has an elevated venous blood PCO2. How accurate is the peripheral venous blood gas PC02 in patients with hypercarbia?

An elevated venous pC02 is a rough indicator of the presence of arterial hypercarbia but if you really want to know what the arterial pC02 is in your patient with hypercarbia, you should get an arterial blood gas (ABG) . A 2021 narrative review of the literature suggested the following ABG conversion from central VBG: A.  Arterial pH = venous pH + 0.05 units; and B. Arterial Pco2 = venous Pco2 – 5 mm Hg (1).

A meta-analysis of studies involving patients with COPD presenting to the emergency department (ED) found a good agreement for pH and bicarbonate values between arterial and venous blood gases but not for pC02 or p02 (2). Although a venous pCO2 of ~45 mmHg or less correctly identified patients who were not hypercarbic based on ABGs, the 95% limit of agreement varied widely from -17 to +26 mmHg between venous and arterial pC02 (average difference ~6.0 mm). Similar results have been reported by other studies involving patients with COPD exacerbation (3,4).

Another meta-analysis involving all comers (COPD and non-COPD patients) concluded that venous pC02 should not be used as a substitute for arterial pC02 when accurate pC02 is required (5). In fact, they emphasized that venous pC02 was not always greater than arterial pC02!

Bonus pearl: Did you know that an unexpectedly low bicarbonate level in a patient with COPD and CO2 retention should alert us to the possibility of concurrent metabolic acidosis (eg, due to lactic acidosis, uremia)?

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References
1. Chong WH, Saha BK, Medarov BI. Comparing cenral venous blood gas to arterial blood gas and determining its utility in critically ill patients: narrative review. Anesth Anal 2021; 133:374-78. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33780397/ 

2. Lim BL, Kelly AM. A meta-analysis on the utility of peripheral venous blood gas analyses in exacerbations of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in the emergency department. Eur J Emerg Med 2010;17:246-48. https://journals.lww.com/euro-emergencymed/Abstract/2010/10000/A_meta_analysis_on_the_utility_of_peripheral.2.aspx
3. McCanny P, Bennett K, Staunton P, et a. Venous vs arterial blood gases in the assessment of patients presenting with an exacerbation of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Am J Emerg Med 2012;30:896-900. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0735675711002865
4. McKeevere TM, Hearson G, Housely G, et al. Using venous blood gas analysis in the assessment of COPD exacerbations: a prospective cohort study. Thorax 2016;71:210-15. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/285545995_Using_venous_blood_gas_analysis_in_the_assessment_of_COPD_exacerbations_A_prospective_cohort_study
5. Byrne AL, Bennett M, Chatterji R, et al. Peripheral venous and arterial blood gas analysis in adults:are they comparable? A systematic review and meta-analysis. Respirology 2014;19:168-75. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/resp.12225

Disclosures: The listed questions and answers are solely the responsibility of the author and do not necessarily represent the official views of Mercy Hospital-St. Louis or its affiliate healthcare centers, Mass General Hospital, Harvard Medical School or its affiliated institutions. Although every effort has been made to provide accurate information, the author is far from being perfect. The reader is urged to verify the content of the material with other sources as deemed appropriate and exercise clinical judgment in the interpretation and application of the information provided herein. No responsibility for an adverse outcome or guarantees for a favorable clinical result is assumed by the author. Thank you!

My patient with COPD exacerbation has an elevated venous blood PCO2. How accurate is the peripheral venous blood gas PC02 in patients with hypercarbia?

Should I routinely treat my patients with acute COPD exacerbation with antibiotics?

The answer is “NO”! With an estimated 20% to 50% of acute chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) exacerbations attributed to noninfectious factors (1,2), routine inclusion of antibiotics in the treatment of this condition is not only unnecessary but potentially harmful.

 
Although the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD) guidelines recommends the use of antibiotics in patients who have dyspnea, increased sputum volume, and increased sputum purulence—or at least 2 of these 3 criteria when sputum purulence is one of them (3)—, these recommendations are not based on robust evidence and have not been widely corroborated (2,4-6).

 
That’s why the findings of a 2019 New England Journal of Medicine study (PACE) supporting the use of serum C-reactive protein (CRP) as an adjunctive test in COPD exacerbation is particularly welcome (1). In this multicenter randomized controlled trial performed in the U.K., the following CRP guidelines (arrived from prior studies) were provided to primary care clinicians to be used as part of their decision making in determining which patients with COPD exacerbation may not need antibiotic therapy:
• CRP less than 20 mg/L: Antibiotics unlikely to be beneficial
• CRP 20-40 mg/L: Antibiotics may be beneficial, mainly if purulent sputum is present
• CRP greater than 40 mg/L: Antibiotics likely to be beneficial

 
Adoption of these guidelines resulted in significantlly fewer patients being placed on antibiotics without evidence of harm over a 4-week follow-up period (1).  Despite its inherent limitations (eg, single country, outpatient setting), CRP testing may be a step in the right direction in curbing unnecessary use of antibiotics in COPD exacerbation.  

 

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References
1. Butler CC, Gillespie D, White P, et al. C-reactive protein testing to guide antibiotic prescribing for COPD exacerbations. N Engl J Med 2019;381:111-20. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31291514
2. Llor C, Moragas A, Hernandez S, et al. Efficacy of antibiotic therapy for acute exacerbations of mild to moderate chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Am J Respir Crit Care Med 2012;186:716-23. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22923662
3. Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease. Global strategy for the diagnosis, management, and prevention of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. GOLD, 2019 (http://www.goldcopd.org).
4. Brett AS, Al-Hasan MN. COPD exacerbations—A target for antibiotic stewardship. N Engl J Med 2018;381:174-75. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31291521
5. Miravitlles M, Moragas A, Hernandez S, et al. Is it possible to identify exacerbations of mild to moderate COPD that do not require antibiotic treatment? Chest 2013;144:1571-7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23807094
6. Van Vezen P, Ter Riet G, Bresser P, et al. Doxycycline for outpatient-treated acute exacerbations of COPD: a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial. Lancet Respir Med 2017;5:492-9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28483402

Should I routinely treat my patients with acute COPD exacerbation with antibiotics?