Fatal pneumococcal septicaemia in a coeliac patient

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Abstract

A 78-year-old lady initially presented with painful hips, low back pain, lethargy and weight loss. She had a past history of osteomalacia. Investigations revealed evidence of malabsorption and jejunal biopsy revealed sub-total villous atrophy in keeping with coeliac disease. Peripheral blood film was within normal limits. She responded well clinically to a gluten-free diet and calcium and vitamin D supplementation. Four years after the initial diagnosis she presented acutely with vomiting, pleuritic chest pain, pyrexia and bronchospasm. Blood cultures confirmed the presence of Streptococcus pneumoniae and she was treated appropriately with ampicillin. Despite this she died shortly after admission. It is recognized that blood film examination alone cannot exclude hyposplenism complicating coeliac disease and it is presumed that this was the reason for the development of fatal pneumococcal septicaemia in this patient Prophylactic vaccination may be appropriate in hyposplenism secondary to coeliac disease.

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