Evolving role of flucytosine in immunocompromised patients: New insights into safety, pharmacokinetics, and antifungal therapy

Peter Francis, Thomas J. Walsh

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178 Scopus citations


Flucytosine is an antifungal agent useful in combination with amphotericin B in the treatment of several deeply invasive mycoses. The potentially dose-limiting, hematologic, gastrointestinal, and hepatic toxicities of flucytosine lead to a reluctance to use it in myelosuppressed patients. To investigate the safety and tolerability of flucytosine in this setting, we evaluated its use in 17 patients with cancer or aplastic anemia during a 21/2-year period at our institution and reviewed the literature describing mechanisms of action, resistance, in vitro and in vivo antifungal activity, clinical antifungal activity, pharmacokinetics, and toxicity. The combination of amphotericin B plus flucytosine eradicated the mycosis in 12 (71%) of 17 patients, whereas 3 (18%) of 17 died of progressive fungal infection. Serial serum levels of flucytosine measured by a creatinine iminohy- drolase assay permitted reliable dosage adjustment. During therapy, only 2 (12%) of 17 patients had elevated mean serum levels of flucytosine (>100 µg/mL) and 3 (18%) other patients had transiently elevated levels. Paired serum samples (n = 45) obtained at steady state during therapy with orally administered flucytosine showed similar peak and trough levels. Adverse effects of flucytosine therapy included one case each of reversible nausea, diarrhea, elevated transaminase levels, and thrombocytopenia. No cases of bone marrow aplasia, enterocolitis, hepatitis, or death due to flucytosine toxicity were encountered. We conclude that flucytosine in combination with amphotericin B is well tolerated in myelosuppressed patients when serum flucytosine levels are serially monitored.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1003-1018
Number of pages16
JournalClinical Infectious Diseases
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1992

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases


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