Microbiology Case Study: 51 Year Old Woman with Fever and Cough

A 51 year old woman with a significant smoking history presented with 8-9 weeks of fever and cough. Shortly after the beginning of her illness, she developed pleuritic left-sided chest pain and hemoptysis. She was treated with amoxicillin and then prednisone without improvement. She had progressively worse pain and hemoptysis as well as fevers and night sweats, with weight loss. A chest x-ray and CT scan showed a left upper lobe mass- like infiltrate suspicious for a carcinoma. She underwent transbronchial fine needle aspiration biopsy of the lesion which showed the following morphology.

Bronchoalveolar lavage fluid (Pap stain).
Bronchoalveolar lavage fluid (Pap stain).

The specimen was also sent for fungal culture.

Colony morphology on fungal media.
Colony morphology on fungal media.
Organism morphology with lactophenol cotton blue scotch tape prep.
Organism morphology with lactophenol cotton blue scotch tape prep.


Laboratory diagnosis:

Blastomyces dermatidis was identified by microscopy and colony morphology. Septate, delicate hyphae with single, circular-to-pyriform condia on short conidiophores (lollipops) were seen on a scotch tape prep. The colonies appeared waxy and wrinkled, with a cream-tan color. Large, thick-walled yeast with buds attached by a broad base, 8-15 um with double-contoured walls, were demonstrated in tissue. Additionally, this patient had a positive urine antigen test for Blastomyces.


Blastomyces’ natural habitat is unknown but the organism is thought to reside in soil or wood, particularly in the Ohio, Mississippi, and Missouri River valley regions. It takes 2-30 days to grow in the lab. The infectious form is the conidia which are transmitted by inhalation. Common sites of infection include skin, lungs, and bone. The typical presentation in an immunocompetent individual is a pulmonary infection with associated acute or chronic suppurative and granulomatous lesions. Blastomyces infection may also cause osteomyelitis, prostatitis, urethritis, CNS infection, and disseminated infection. Immunocompromised patients may present with disseminated infection with involvement of skin, bone, and multiple organs. Infection may be confirmed by exoantigen testing or by nucleic acid probe testing.


-Lauren Pearson, D.O. is a 2nd year anatomic and clinical pathology resident at the University of Vermont Medical Center.


-Christi Wojewoda, MD, is the Director of Clinical Microbiology at the University of Vermont Medical Center and an Assistant Professor at the University of Vermont.

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