▪ Objective: To determine the efficacy of low-dose trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole (trimethoprim, 160 mg plus sulfamethoxazole, 800 mg; one tablet twice daily, 2 days per week) as primary prophylaxis against toxoplasmic encephalitis in patients with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection and previous Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia.
▪ Design: A retrospective study.
▪ Setting: Tertiary referral teaching hospital.
▪ Patients: During a 3-year period after primary episodes of P. carinii pneumonia, 60 patients received trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole, and 95 patients received pentamidine (aerosolized in 78 patients and intravenous in 17 patients) as secondary prophylaxis.
▪ Results: No patient in the trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole group and no patient seronegative for Toxoplasma gondii developed toxoplasmic encephalitis, compared with 12 of 36 (33%; 95% Cl, 19% to 51%) seropositive patients in the pentamidine group (trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole compared with pentamidine, P = 0.008). A significant difference was seen in the time to development of toxoplasmic encephalitis between the trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole group (no case at 1153 days) and the pentamidine group (median time, 460 days) (P = 0.004). Neither the CD4+ lymphocyte count at the start of prophylaxis nor zidovudine therapy during the period of prophylaxis influenced the rate of toxoplasmic encephalitis in any group.
▪ Conclusions: Low-dose trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole (four tablets per week) appears to be effective prophylaxis against toxoplasmic encephalitis in HIV-infected patients with previous P. carinii pneumonia. A prospective, randomized, controlled study is needed to further evaluate these findings.