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01.12.2019 | Research article | Ausgabe 1/2019 Open Access

BMC Infectious Diseases 1/2019

Comparison of pleural effusion features and biomarkers between talaromycosis and tuberculosis in non-human immunodeficiency virus-infected patients

BMC Infectious Diseases > Ausgabe 1/2019
Ye Qiu, Wen Zeng, Hui Zhang, Xiaoning Zhong, Shudan Tang, Jianquan Zhang
Wichtige Hinweise

Electronic supplementary material

The online version of this article (https://​doi.​org/​10.​1186/​s12879-019-4376-6) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Ye Qiu and Wen Zeng are considered co-first authors.

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Due to the similar clinical, lung imaging, and pathological characteristics, talaromycosis is most commonly misdiagnosed as tuberculosis. This study aimed to identify the characteristics of talaromycosis pleural effusion (TMPE) and to distinguish TMPE from tuberculosis pleural effusion (TPE).


We enrolled 19 cases each of TMPE and TPE from Guangxi, China. Patients’ clinical records, pleural effusion tests, biomarker test results, and receiver operating characteristic curves were analyzed.


In total, 39.8% (65/163) of patients exhibited serous effusion, of whom 61 were non-human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-infected patients; 68.85% of the non-HIV-infected patients (42/61) had TMPE. Thoracentesis was performed only in 19 patients, all of whom were misdiagnosed with tuberculosis and received long-term anti-tuberculosis treatment. In four of these patients, interleukin (IL)-23, IL-27, and interferon-gamma (IFN-γ) measurements were not performed since pleural effusion samples could not be collected because the effusion had been drained prior to the study. In the remaining 15 patients, pleural effusion samples were collected. Talaromyces marneffei was isolated from the pleural effusion and pleural nodules. Most TMPEs were characterized by yellowish fluid, with marked elevation of protein content and nucleated cell counts. However, neutrophils were predominantly found in TMPEs, and lymphocytes were predominantly found in TPEs (both p < 0.05). Adenosine deaminase (ADA) and IFN-γ levels in TMPEs were significantly lower than those in TPEs (all p < 0.05) and provided similar accuracies for distinguishing TMPEs from TPEs. IL-23 concentration in TMPEs was significantly higher than that in TPEs (p < 0.05), and it provided similar accuracy for diagnosing TMPEs. IL-27 concentrations in TMPEs were significantly lower than those in TPEs (all p < 0.05) but was not useful for distinguishing TMPE from TPE.


Talaromycosis can infringe on the pleural cavity via the translocation of T. marneffei into the pleural space. Nonetheless, this phenomenon is still commonly neglected by clinicians. TMPE is a yellowish fluid with exudative PEs and predominant neutrophils. Higher neutrophil counts and IL-23 may suggest talaromycosis. Higher lymphocyte counts, ADA activity, and IFN-γ concentration may suggest tuberculosis.
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