Pneumocystis pneumonia is a severe opportunistic infection caused a fungus called Pneumocystis jiroveci. This fungus does not cause pneumonia in healthy children. Therefore, a diagnosis of Pneumocystis pneumonia usually indicates that the child has AIDS. Pneumocystis pneumonia commonly presents in the first year of life with high fever, a cough and marked respiratory distress.
The risk of Pneumocystis pneumonia can be greatly reduced with co-trimoxazole prophylaxis from 6 weeks in all HIV-exposed infants (i.e. infants born to HIV-positive women).
Infants with suspected Pneumocystis pneumonia must be urgently referred to hospital for treatment with intravenous co-trimoxazole.
The diagnosis can be confirmed by finding cysts of Pneumocystis in the sputum using a special stain. Pneumocystis pneumonia is one of the AIDS defining illnesses (i.e. stage 4 HIV infection).