Pneumonia therapy called inadequate

September 21, 1990|By Sue Miller | Sue Miller,Evening Sun Staff

UNIVERSAL, CITY, CALIF. — UNIVERSAL CITY, Calif. -- Aerosolized pentamizine, used to prevent recurrence of a pneumonia that is a major killer of AIDS patients, appears to be inadequate, according to new studies at the University of Southern California.

Dr. Narsing Rao, director of Ophthalmologic Pathology at the Doheny Eye Institute in Los Angeles, yesterday urged eye exams by physicians every three months for longtime users of aerosolized pentamizine, which is inhaled into the lungs. Rao said the exams are necessary for early detection of signs in the eye that the pneumonia has spread from the lungs to other organs.

"Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia is leaving the lungs and spreading to various parts of the body, just like cancer," he told a science writers' seminar here sponsored by the New York-based Research to Prevent Blindness. "Something else may be involved here. We think a better prophylaxis is needed.

"Now there are 40 cases across the country that have shown this spread. The more we look for them, the more we will find."

Widely disseminated, the pneumonia infection results in death unless patients are treated with intravenous injections of pentamizine -- a systemic treatment that reaches all parts of the body.

Advocates of patients with acquired immune deficiency syndrome fought for aerosolized pentamizine as an alternative to injected pentamide, which costs much more and has debilitating side effects.

Since 1981, more than 20,000 cases of the pneumonia have been reported to the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta. It is expected, Rao said, that by 1991, 75,000 to 100,00 cases will have been diagnosed. Sixty percent of the pneumonia patients have recurrences unless they receive a preventive therapy.

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