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Fungi are an unusual cause of chronic monarticular arthritis. Granulomatous articular infection with the endemic dimorphic fungi Coccidioides immitis, Blastomyces dermatitidis, and (less commonly) Histoplasma capsulatum (Fig. 125-2) results from hematogenous seeding or direct extension from bony lesions in persons with disseminated disease. Joint involvement is an unusual complication of sporotrichosis (infection with Sporothrix schenckii) among gardeners and other persons who work with soil or sphagnum moss. Articular sporotrichosis is six times more common among men than among women, and alcoholics and other debilitated hosts are at risk for polyarticular infection.

FIGURE 125-2

Chronic arthritis caused by Histoplasma capsulatum in the left knee. A. A man in his sixties from El Salvador presented with a history of progressive knee pain and difficulty walking for several years. He had undergone arthroscopy for a meniscal tear 7 years before presentation (without relief) and had received several intraarticular glucocorticoid injections. The patient developed significant deformity of the knee over time, including a large effusion in the lateral aspect. B. An x-ray of the knee showed multiple abnormalities, including severe medial femorotibial joint-space narrowing, several large subchondral cysts within the tibia and the patellofemoral compartment, a large suprapatellar joint effusion, and a large soft-tissue mass projecting laterally over the knee. C. MRI further defined these abnormalities and demonstrated the cystic nature of the lateral knee abnormality. Synovial biopsies demonstrated chronic inflammation with giant cells, and cultures grew H. capsulatum after 3 weeks of incubation. All clinical cystic lesions and the effusion resolved after 1 year of treatment with itraconazole. The patient underwent a left total-knee replacement for definitive treatment. (Courtesy of Francisco M. Marty, MD, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston; with permission.)

Candida infection involving a single joint—usually the knee, hip, or shoulder—results from surgical procedures, intraarticular injections, or (among critically ill patients with debilitating illnesses such as diabetes mellitus or hepatic or renal insufficiency and patients receiving immunosuppressive therapy) hematogenous spread. Candida infections in IV drug users typically involve the spine, sacroiliac joints, or other fibrocartilaginous joints. Unusual cases of arthritis due to Aspergillus species, Cryptococcus neoformans, Pseudallescheria boydii, and the dematiaceous fungi also have resulted from direct inoculation or disseminated hematogenous infection in immunocompromised persons. In the United States, a 2012 national outbreak of fungal arthritis (and meningitis) caused by Exserohilum rostratum was linked to intraspinal and intraarticular injection of a contaminated preparation of methylprednisolone acetate.

The synovial fluid in fungal arthritis usually contains 10,000–40,000 cells/μL, with ~70% neutrophils. Stained specimens and cultures of synovial tissue often confirm the diagnosis of fungal arthritis when studies of synovial fluid give negative results. Treatment consists of drainage and lavage of the joint and systemic administration of an antifungal agent directed at a specific pathogen. The doses and duration of therapy are the same as for disseminated disease (see Part 5, Section 16). ...

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