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A 40-year-old woman presented with multiple scalp, cubital fossa, axillary, and distal forearm ulcers of 3 months' duration, along with depression and loss of appetite of 2 months' duration. A physical examination of the patient revealed a rash that was vesicular in nature and itchy. Scratching caused the rash to blister, and ulcers eventually formed. The patient applied topical penicillin ointment to the ulcers. A home-based caregiver later reviewed her treatment history and changed the medication to penicillin powders, to no avail. Subsequently, the patient's appetite became poor and she became bedridden. She is a widow with 2 children, is currently unemployed, does not smoke or drink alcohol, and is neither a known hypertensive nor a diabetic patient.
The patient was screened for HIV and confirmed positive 2 years ago, after her spouse died of an undetermined illness. She started receiving antiretroviral therapy (ART) in January 2005. Her regimen consisted of nevirapine 200 mg twice daily, lamivudine 150 mg twice daily, and stavudine 30 mg twice daily. Her baseline CD4 count in January 2005 was 58 cells/µL. Subsequent results were 49 cells/µL in February 2005 and 40 cells/µL in January 2006. She reportedly had good adherence to her ART regimen.
The initial physical examination revealed a chronically ill patient, bedridden with multiple skin ulcers on her head and other areas of the body. The lesions were deep (about 1 cm) and punctuated with undermined edges and superficial sloughs.
The results of initial investigations showed a packed cell volume of 17%, erythrocyte sedimentation rate of 170 mm/hour (Westergren method), total leukocyte count of 3.9 x 109/L, and total lymphocyte count of 624 x 109/L with differential of 74% neutrophils, 16% lymphocytes, and 10% monocytes. The blood film showed normocytic hypochromic red blood cells, adequate platelets, leukopenia, and band forms.
Multiple skin lesions in an HIV infection and disease of exfoiliative dermatitis in a patient with AIDS (World Health Organization [WHO] clinical Stage 4, bedridden >50% of days in the past month, wasting syndrome, and severe anemia).
The wound culture analysis isolated Staphylococcus aureus that was sensitive to ofloxacin, clindamycin, ciprofloxacin, and erythromycin but resistant to ampicillin/cloxacillin (Ampiclox).
Because of the extensive nature of the patient's lesions and her marked immunocompromised state, the broad-spectrum antibiotics initially used to treat the suspected S aureus included intravenous metronidazole, intravenous gentamicin, intravenous cloxacillin, and oral fluconazole. These medications were changed, however, to oral ofloxacin and fluconazole after results from the sensitivity report were obtained. Multivitamins were added to the treatment regimen. The patient also received a unit of fresh whole blood and wound debridement.
S aureus skin infection in a patient with AIDS (WHO clinical Stage 4 disease with wasting, anemia, and depression).
The patient's improvement was marginal in the first week, but after the debridement, change of intravenous antibiotics, and blood transfusion, her improvement became rapid. She had psychological support from medical team personnel who paid multiple visits to her and from church members who took turns cooking for her. Her appetite is now very good. Boils are breaking spontaneously and releasing pus. Debrided wounds are clean and granulating well.
Basic laboratory procedures remain necessary in resource-poor countries. Polypharmacy in the absence of test results is not the best option. Microbiological investigation of culture showed that the isolated staphylococcal organism was resistant to commonly used antibiotics. Antibiotic treatment with newer generation agents is more effective following resistance to conventional antibiotics, but laboratory confirmation of resistance often is not available.(2,3) In this case, surgical intervention using debridement and intravenous antibiotics were very helpful. Fresh screened blood with adequate nutrition also assisted recovery. Caution should be used in the process of administering blood, even if enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) or rapid HIV testing is performed, because it is possible for an HIV-infected individual to donate blood during the "window period" between the time of infection and the development of detectible antibodies.(13,14)