BACKGROUND: There have been numerous reports of clustered outbreaks of Pneumocystis pneumonia (PCP) at renal transplant centers over the past 2 decades. It has been unclear whether these outbreaks were linked epidemiologically to 1 or several unique strains, which could have implications for transmission patterns or strain virulence.
METHODS: Restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) analysis was used to compare Pneumocystis isolates from 3 outbreaks of PCP in renal transplant patients in Germany, Switzerland, and Japan, as well as nontransplant isolates from both human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-infected and uninfected patients.
RESULTS: Based on RFLP analysis, a single Pneumocystis strain caused pneumonia in transplant patients in Switzerland (7 patients) and Germany (14 patients). This strain was different from the strain that caused an outbreak in transplant patients in Japan, as well as strains causing sporadic cases of PCP in nontransplant patients with or without HIV infection.
CONCLUSIONS: Two geographically distinct clusters of PCP in Europe were due to a single strain of Pneumocystis. This suggests either enhanced virulence of this strain in transplant patients or a common, but unidentified, source of transmission. Outbreaks of PCP can be better understood by enhanced knowledge of transmission patterns and strain variation.