This article reviews infections associated with cancer treatments and immunosuppressive/immunomodulatory therapies used in both neoplastic and non-neoplastic conditions, including hematopoietic cell transplantation and solid organ transplantation. It provides a clinical approach to the most commonly affected patient groups based on clinicoanatomic presentation and disease-specific risks resulting from immune deficits and drugs received.
The clinical presentations, associated neuroimaging findings, and CSF abnormalities of patients with central nervous system infections who are immunocompromised may differ from those of patients with central nervous system infections who are immunocompetent and may be confused with noninfectious processes. Triggering of brain autoimmunity with emergence of neurotropic antibodies has emerged as a recognized parainfectious complication. New unbiased metagenomic assays to identify obscure pathogens help clinicians navigate the increasing range of conditions affecting the growing population of patients with altered immunity.
Despite evidence-based prophylactic regimens and organism-specific antimicrobials, central nervous system infections continue to cause significant morbidity and mortality in an increasing range of patients who are immunocompromised by their conditions and therapies. Multiple new drugs put patients at risk for progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy, which has numerous imaging and clinical manifestations; patients at risk include those with multiple sclerosis, for whom infection risk is becoming one of the most important factors in therapeutic decision making. Efficient, early diagnosis is essential to improve outcomes in these often-devastating diseases.