Cryptococcal Meningitis: A Deadly Fungal Infection

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Cryptococcal Meningitis: An Overview


Cryptococcal meningitis (CM) is a fungal infection of the central nervous system (CNS) caused by the yeast-like fungus Cryptococcus neoformans or C. gattii. It primarily affects individuals with weakened immune systems, such as those with HIV/AIDS or undergoing immunosuppressive therapy. CM is a potentially life-threatening condition that requires prompt diagnosis and treatment.


  • C. neoformans is found worldwide, while C. gattii is more prevalent in tropical and subtropical regions.
  • The incidence of CM is highest in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia, where access to antifungal therapy is limited.
  • In the United States, the incidence of CM is estimated at 1-2 cases per 100,000 individuals annually.
  • The risk of developing CM is significantly higher in individuals with HIV/AIDS, accounting for approximately 75% of all cases.


  • Cryptococcus spores are inhaled into the lungs, where they can cause pneumonia or remain dormant.
  • In immunocompromised individuals, the spores cross the blood-brain barrier and enter the CNS, where they replicate and cause inflammation.
  • The fungus can also invade other organs, including the skin, bones, and eyes.

Clinical Manifestations

The clinical presentation of CM can vary depending on the severity of infection and the host immune status. Common symptoms include:

  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Neck stiffness
  • Altered mental status (e.g., confusion, disorientation)
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Photophobia (sensitivity to light)
  • Seizures
  • Focal neurological deficits (e.g., weakness, numbness)


The diagnosis of CM is confirmed by laboratory tests:

  • Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) analysis: Examination of CSF can reveal elevated white blood cell count, elevated protein, and decreased glucose.
  • Cryptococcal antigen testing: The presence of cryptococcal antigen in CSF or serum is highly suggestive of CM.
  • Culture: Isolating Cryptococcus species from CSF or other body fluids confirms the diagnosis.


  • Amphotericin B: A potent antifungal medication used as the initial treatment for CM.
  • Flucytosine: A synergistic antifungal agent often used in combination with amphotericin B.
  • Fluconazole: An oral antifungal medication used for maintenance therapy and prophylaxis in HIV-infected individuals.


The prognosis of CM depends on the severity of infection, the underlying immune status of the patient, and the timeliness of treatment.

  • With early diagnosis and treatment, the mortality rate can be as low as 10%.
  • However, untreated CM has a mortality rate of approximately 50%.
  • Patients with HIV/AIDS have a higher mortality rate than non-HIV-infected individuals.


  • Prophylaxis: HIV-infected individuals with a CD4 count below 100 cells/μL should receive lifelong antifungal prophylaxis with fluconazole.
  • Environmental control: Avoidance of exposure to pigeon droppings and soil contaminated with bird feces can help reduce the risk of infection.


Cryptococcal meningitis is a serious fungal infection that primarily affects immunocompromised individuals. Early diagnosis and treatment are crucial for improving outcomes. профилактические меры, такие как профилактика и контроль окружающей среды, могут снизить риск развития CM. Постоянные исследования направлены на разработку новых методов лечения и профилактики, направленных на уменьшение бремени CM в глобальном масштабе.

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