BMC Infectious Diseases (Jan 2021)

Severe Candida glabrata pancolitis and fatal Aspergillus fumigatus pulmonary infection in the setting of bone marrow aplasia after CD19-directed CAR T-cell therapy – a case report

  • Kai Rejeski,
  • Wolfgang G. Kunz,
  • Martina Rudelius,
  • Veit Bücklein,
  • Viktoria Blumenberg,
  • Christian Schmidt,
  • Philipp Karschnia,
  • Florian Schöberl,
  • Konstantin Dimitriadis,
  • Louisa von Baumgarten,
  • Joachim Stemmler,
  • Oliver Weigert,
  • Martin Dreyling,
  • Michael von Bergwelt-Baildon,
  • Marion Subklewe

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 21, no. 1
pp. 1 – 8


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Abstract Background Prolonged myelosuppression following CD19-directed CAR T-cell transfusion represents an important, yet underreported, adverse event. The resulting neutropenia and multifactorial immunosuppression can facilitate severe infectious complications. Case presentation We describe the clinical course of a 59-year-old patient with relapsed/refractory DLBCL who received Axicabtagene-Ciloleucel (Axi-cel). The patient developed ASTCT grade I CRS and grade IV ICANS, necessitating admission to the neurological ICU and prolonged application of high-dose corticosteroids and other immunosuppressive agents. Importantly, neutropenia was profound (ANC < 100/μl), G-CSF-refractory, and prolonged, lasting more than 50 days. The patient developed severe septic shock 3 weeks after CAR transfusion while receiving anti-fungal prophylaxis with micafungin. His clinical status stabilized with broad anti-infective treatment and intensive supportive measures. An autologous stem cell backup was employed on day 46 to support hematopoietic recovery. Although the counts of the patient eventually started to recover, he developed an invasive pulmonary aspergillosis, which ultimately lead to respiratory failure and death. Postmortem examination revealed signs of Candida glabrata pancolitis. Conclusions This case highlights the increased risk for fatal infectious complications in patients who present with profound and prolonged cytopenia after CAR T-cell therapy. We describe a rare case of C. glabrata pancolitis associated with multifactorial immunosuppression. Although our patient succumbed to a fatal fungal infection, autologous stem cell boost was able to spur hematopoiesis and may represent an important therapeutic strategy for DLBCL patients with CAR T-cell associated bone marrow aplasia who have underwent prior stem cell harvest.