Home | About JCVJS | Editorial board | Ahead of print | Current Issue | Archives | Instructions | Subscribe | Advertise | Contact us |   Login 
Journal of Craniovertebral Junction and Spine
Search Articles   
Advanced search   

   Table of Contents  
Year : 2013  |  Volume : 4  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 82-84  

A rare case of spontaneous Aspergillus spondylodiscitis with epidural abscess in a 45-year-old immunocompetent female

1 Department of Pathology, Sri Manakula Vinayagar Medical College, Puducherry, India
2 Department of Radiology, Sri Manakula Vinayagar Medical College, Puducherry, India

Date of Web Publication11-Mar-2014

Correspondence Address:
K Ambedkar Raj
Department of Pathology, Sri Manakula Vinayagar Medical College, Kaliatheerthal Kuppam, Puducherry - 605 107
Login to access the Email id

Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0974-8237.128538

Rights and Permissions

Vertebral osteomyelitis and discitis are mainly due to bacterial infections though fungal infections are one of the important causes of morbidity and mortality in immunocompromised patients. Aspergillus involving intervertebral disc space is extremely rare. We report a case of aspergillosis of intervertebral L5-S1 disc space with spinal epidural abscess in an immunocompetent 45-year-old female which can add on to a few case reports described in literature as well as an insight for clinicians regarding this rare spontaneous infection in an immunocompetent patient.

Keywords: Aspergillosis, intervertebral disc space, immunocompetent, epidural abscess

How to cite this article:
Raj K A, Srinivasamurthy BC, Nagarajan K, Ilavarasi Sinduja M G. A rare case of spontaneous Aspergillus spondylodiscitis with epidural abscess in a 45-year-old immunocompetent female. J Craniovert Jun Spine 2013;4:82-4

How to cite this URL:
Raj K A, Srinivasamurthy BC, Nagarajan K, Ilavarasi Sinduja M G. A rare case of spontaneous Aspergillus spondylodiscitis with epidural abscess in a 45-year-old immunocompetent female. J Craniovert Jun Spine [serial online] 2013 [cited 2022 Jan 19];4:82-4. Available from: https://www.jcvjs.com/text.asp?2013/4/2/82/128538

   Introduction Top

Infectious spondylitis is commonly caused by pyogenic infection, particularly Staphylococcus aureus, which accounts for 60% of all spinal infection. [1] Non-pyogenic origins of vertebral osteomyelitis and discitis include Mycobacterium tuberculosis and fungi. The rate of occurrence of fungal infections has increased over the last decade as the population of immunocompromised patients has increased. [2] Candida and Aspergillus species are the most common causes of mycotic infections in these persons. [3] These infections mainly present as discitis or osteomyelitis in the spine. Most reviews of fungal spinal infections have included a limited number of patients. Fungal organisms are slow growing and difficult to identify by culture. Therefore, histopathological examination is important to obtain the correct diagnosis. The diagnosis and treatment of fungal infection of the spine is often delayed, as clinical suspicion is often low, particularly in immunocompetent individuals. Musculoskeletal involvement, especially vertebrae and intervertebral disc space, is uncommon. Still rarer is Aspergillus vertebral osteomyelitis and only few case reports of this disease have been described in literature occurring in immunocompetent person. [4]

   Case Report Top

The present case report is about a 45-year-old female patient who presented with low backache for the past 1 month and bilateral lower limb weakness. There was no history of fever, cough or weight loss. She was a known diabetic on treatment since 18 months. Clinical examination revealed tenderness over S1 region with dorsiflexors weakness on both sides. Routine laboratory investigations were within the normal limits. Human immunodeficiency virus antibodies and hepatitis B surface antigen was negative. Magnetic resonance imaging of spine performed showed L5-S1 endplate and intervertebral disc destruction, altered signal intensity changes and anterior epidural granulation tissue/abscess measuring 7.4 mm in thickness, causing spinal encroachment at the same level. Para-discal marrow edema, end plate erosions, with small prevertebral, paravertebral and ventral epidural abscess lesions causing compression of cauda equina. Diagnosis of paradiscal infective spondylodiscitis at L5-S1 disco-vertebral unit was made [Figure 1]. Surgical posterior decompression laminectomy of L5-S1 was done and part of L5-S1 disc and epidural granulation/abscess removed after laminectomy was sent for histopathological examination and for culture.
Figure 1: Photomicrograph (×10): H and E stain showing viable and degenerated hyphae which are uniform, narrow, tubular with acute angle branching

Click here to view

Gross examination revealed fragmented pieces of gray white soft-tissue of about 2 cc volume. Sections studied from received material showed hyalinized fibro-collagenous tissue, fragments of skeletal muscle, mature adipose tissue, foci of degenerated bony trabeculae and inflammatory cells. The admixed foci showed large areas of hemorrhage, granulation tissue infiltrated by mixed inflammatory infiltrate, necrosis with multiple fragmented viable and degenerated fungal hyphae invading the tissue. Hyphae were uniform, narrow with regular septation and acute angle branching [Figure 2]. Periodic acid Schiff stain confirmed the fungal hyphae. The culture confirmed growth of Aspergillus fumigatus [Figure 3]. The patient was started on oral itraconazole 200 mg twice daily for 3 months. Patient is clinically improving since 9 months after surgery.
Figure 2: Photomicrograph (×10): Periodic acid Schiff stain showing hyphae staining positive

Click here to view
Figure 3: Sagittal T2-weighted magnetic resonance image shows L5-S1 endplate and intervertebral disc destruction, altered signal intensity changes and anterior epidural granulation tissue/abscess, causing spinal encroachment at the same level

Click here to view

   Discussion Top

Aspergillus species are ubiquitous saprophytic organisms. More than 300 species are known, but only a few of them are of importance regarding opportunistic infection. Invasive aspergillosis usually involves the sinopulmonary tract, with the lung being the most common site of infection, while osteomyelitis due to Aspergillus species is rare. It affects bone tissues by contiguity, hematogenous spread and direct implantation, e.g., traumatic or iatrogenic. The incidence of Aspergillus affecting the bone among all cases of invasive aspergillosis is estimated to be 3%. [5]

Aspergillus species commonly invade the respiratory tract, where they reside as harmless inhabitants. Aspergillosis can develop in immunocompromised or chronically ill patients, such as patients with malignancy, uncontrolled diabetes, organ transplants, or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. [6] Early definitive diagnosis of Aspergillus spondylitis remains a challenge and requires a high degree of suspicion. The radiologic features of Aspergillus spondylitis have been known to be non-specific and may involve single or multiple vertebral bodies presenting as primary discitis or epidural abscess. [7] Aspergillus spondylitis may be confused with tuberculous spondylitis. First case of Aspergillus epidural abscess in an immunocompetent person was described in 1981. [8] In the present case, patient was a known diabetic with radiological features suggestive of infective spondylodiscitis with epidural abscess at L5-S1. Surgical biopsy performed was definitive of diagnosis. Recently discovered serum biomarkers like Aspergillus galactomannan, serum beta-D-glucan can be used to confirm the diagnosis. D'Agostino et al. did a 7 year prospective study on spondylodiscitis of 81 patients of which only six patients had spondylodiscitis caused by fungi and yeasts. [9] Sethi et al. have quoted the largest series of fifteen cases of Aspergillus osteomyelitis affecting the spine in immunocompetent young adults in March 2012. [10] Only six cases of vertebral osteomyelitis with spinal epidural abscess in immunocompetent individuals are reported until 2010. [11]

   Conclusion Top

Aspergillus spondylitis is a rare condition, only a few cases in immunocompetent patients have been reported. It can be a serious threat to the patient due to diagnostic delay. Early definitive diagnosis remains a challenge as radiological features have been known to be non-specific. Surgical biopsy can be helpful in clinching the diagnosis and for proper management.

   References Top

1.Williams RL, Fukui MB, Meltzer CC, Swarnkar A, Johnson DW, Welch W. Fungal spinal osteomyelitis in the immunocompromised patient: MR findings in three cases. AJNR Am J Neuroradiol 1999;20:381-5.  Back to cited text no. 1
2.Ferra C, Doebbeling BN, Hollis RJ, Pfaller MA, Lee CK, Gingrich RD. Candida tropicalis vertebral osteomyelitis: A late sequela of fungemia. Clin Infect Dis 1994;19:697-703.  Back to cited text no. 2
3.Seligsohn R, Rippon JW, Lerner SA. Aspergillus terreus osteomyelitis. Arch Intern Med 1977;137:918-20.  Back to cited text no. 3
4.Vaishya S, Sharma MS. Spinal Aspergillus vertebral osteomyelitis with extradural abscess: Case report and review of literature. Surg Neurol 2004;61:551-5.  Back to cited text no. 4
5.Winterstein AR, Bohndorf K, Vollert K, Wagner T, Gnekow A, Roemer FW. Invasive aspergillosis osteomyelitis in children - A case report and review of the literature. Skeletal Radiol 2010;39:827-31.  Back to cited text no. 5
6.Woods GL, Goldsmith JC. Aspergillus infection of the central nervous system in patients with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. Arch Neurol 1990;47:181-4.  Back to cited text no. 6
7.Martinez M, Lee AS, Hellinger WC, Kaplan J. Vertebral Aspergillus osteomyelitis and acute diskitis in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Mayo Clin Proc 1999;74:579-83.  Back to cited text no. 7
8.Chee YC, Poh SC. Aspergillus epidural abscess in a patient with obstructive airway disease. Postgrad Med J 1983;59:43-5.  Back to cited text no. 8
9.D'Agostino C, Scorzolini L, Massetti AP, Carnevalini M, d'Ettorre G, Venditti M, et al. A seven-year prospective study on spondylodiscitis: Epidemiological and microbiological features. Infection 2010;38:102-7.  Back to cited text no. 9
10.Sethi S, Siraj F, Kalra K, Chopra P. Aspergillus vertebral osteomyelitis in immunocompetent patients. Indian J Orthop 2012;46:246-50.  Back to cited text no. 10
[PUBMED]  Medknow Journal  
11.Batra S, Arora S, Meshram H, Khanna G, Grover SB, Sharma VK. A rare etiology of cauda equina syndrome. J Infect Dev Ctries 2011;5:79-82.  Back to cited text no. 11


  [Figure 1], [Figure 2], [Figure 3]

This article has been cited by
1 Spontaneous Vertebral Aspergillosis, the State of Art: A Systematic Literature Review
Andrea Perna, Luca Ricciardi, Massimo Fantoni, Francesco Taccari, Riccardo Torelli, Domenico Alessandro Santagada, Caterina Fumo, Francesco Ciro Tamburrelli, Luca Proietti
Neurospine. 2021; 18(1): 23
[Pubmed] | [DOI]


    Similar in PUBMED
   Search Pubmed for
   Search in Google Scholar for
 Related articles
    Access Statistics
    Email Alert *
    Add to My List *
* Registration required (free)  

  In this article
   Case Report
    Article Figures

 Article Access Statistics
    PDF Downloaded31    
    Comments [Add]    
    Cited by others 1    

Recommend this journal