Histoplasma antigen detection in urine is a rapid diagnostic method for disseminated histoplasmosis, although cross-reactivity has been reported in specimens from patients with other thermally dimorphic fungal infections. We tested urine specimens, from persons with suspected invasive fungal infections, using a commercial monoclonal antibody Histoplasma enzyme immunoassay (EIA) at a South African national mycology reference laboratory from August 2014 through December 2018. Corresponding fungal culture and histopathology results were obtained from an electronic laboratory information system. In some cases, cultured fungal isolates were sent with the urine specimen for species-level identification by phenotypic and molecular methods. Cross-reactivity was confirmed using culture filtrates of several fungal pathogens. Of 212 referred cases, 41 (19%) were excluded since they had no recorded clinical history (n = 1), alternative diagnoses were confirmed (n = 2), or no fungal culture or histopathology results (n = 38). Eighty-seven of 212 (41%) had laboratory evidence of an invasive fungal disease, while 84 (40%) did not. Of the 87 cases, 37 (43%) were culture-confirmed mycoses: emergomycosis (n = 18), histoplasmosis (n = 8), sporotrichosis (n = 6), cryptococcosis (n = 2), talaromycosis (n = 1), and other fungi isolated (n = 2). The sensitivity and specificity of the EIA were calculated for two groups: culture-confirmed (n = 37) and histology-confirmed invasive fungal disease (n = 50). The sensitivity and specificity of the EIA for diagnosis of histoplasmosis compared to culture were 88% (7/8, 95%CI 47-100%) and 72% (21/29, 95%CI 53-87%), respectively, and for diagnosis of emergomycosis/histoplasmosis compared to histology was 83% (29/35, 95%CI 66-93%) and 93% (14/15, 95%CI 68-100%), respectively. Cross-reactions occurred in urine specimens of patients with Emergomyces africanus infection and in culture filtrates of E. africanus, T. marneffei and Blastomyces species. A commercial Histoplasma EIA had satisfactory accuracy for diagnosis of culture-confirmed histoplasmosis, but cross-reacted in urine specimens from patients with invasive disease caused by the closely-related pathogen, E. africanus and in culture filtrates of E. africanus and other related fungi.
LAY SUMMARY: Emergomyces africanus and Histoplasma capsulatum are fungi that cause a multi-system disease among HIV-seropositive persons with a low CD4 cell count. Handling live cultures of these fungi to confirm a diagnosis requires specialized laboratory equipment and infrastructure which is infrequently accessible in low-resource settings. The features of the two diseases (i.e., disseminated histoplasmosis and emergomycosis) may be indistinguishable when infected tissue is prepared, stained, and examined under a microscope. Enzyme immunoassays (EIA) have been developed as rapid diagnostic tools for the detection of a cell wall component of H. capsulatum in urine specimens, although cross-reactions have been reported in specimens from patients with other fungal infections. We evaluated the accuracy of a commercial Histoplasma EIA to diagnose histoplasmosis and to assess cross-reactions in urine specimens from persons with emergomycosis and in cultures of E. africanus and related fungi. We report a sensitivity and specificity of 88% (95%CI 47-100%) and 72% (95%CI 53-87%) for diagnosis of histoplasmosis compared to culture and 83% (95%CI 66-93%) and 93% (95%CI 68-100%) for diagnosis of either histoplasmosis/emergomycosis compared to a diagnosis made by microscopic examination of infected tissue. The assay cross-reacted in urine specimens from patients with emergomycosis and in culture filtrates of related fungi. Although the EIA cross-reacted with other related fungi, this test can decrease the time to diagnosis and facilitate early treatment of emergomycosis and histoplasmosis in South Africa.