Previous studies from Africa have been unable to identify disseminated Mycobacterium avium complex (MAC) infection in patients with advanced human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection. We performed myco-bacterial blood cultures and CD4 counts on 48 symptomatic adults with advanced HIV infection admitted to the hospital in Nairobi, Kenya over 4 weeks in 1992. Fourteen patients had mycobacteremia; these patients had significantly lower CD4 counts than the patients with negative cultures (14/mm3 vs. 85/mm3;p < 0.01). Three patients (6%) were bacteremic with M. avium (mean CD4 count, 10/mm3) and 11 (23%) were bacteremic with Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex (MTB) (mean CD4 count, 15/mm3). Thus, M. avium bacteremia was detected significantly less frequently in the study population than MTB bacteremia (p = 0.04). The minimum rate for HIV-associated disseminated M. avium infection in patients admitted to the hospital in Nairobi was estimated to be approximately 1%. Patients with mycobacteremia died or were discharged home sick before the diagnosis was made. Disseminated M. avium does occur in adults with advanced HIV infection in sub-Saharan Africa, but is less common than disseminated MTB.
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