Cryptococcal meningitis is a fungal infection of the tissues covering the brain and spinal cord (meninges).
Cryptococcal meningitis is caused by the fungus Cryptococcus neoformans. This fungus is found in soil around the world.
Cryptococcal meningitis most often affects people with a weakened immune system. Risk factors include:
It is rare in people who have a normal immune system and no long-term health problems.
Unlike bacterial meningitis, this form of meningitis comes on more slowly, over a few days to a few weeks. Symptoms may include:
A doctor or nurse will examine you. This will usually show:
A lumbar puncture ("spinal tap") is an important test for diagnosis meningitis. This test is done to remove a sample of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF).
Tests that may be done include:
Antifungal medications are used to treat this form of meningitis. Intravenous therapy with amphotericin B is the most common treatment. It is often combined with an oral medication, 5-flucytosine.
An oral medication, fluconazole, in high doses may also be effective against this infection, and may be used later in the course of treatment.
People with AIDS who recover from cryptococcal meningitis need long-term treatment with medication to prevent the infection from coming back and to boost their immune system.
Amphotericin B can have side effects, including chills and stiffness, and sometimes kidney damage.
Call the local emergency number if you develop any of the serious symptoms listed above. Meningitis can quickly become a life-threatening illness.
Call the local emergency number (such as 911) or go to an emergency room if you suspect meningitis in a young child who has the following symptoms:
Kauffman CA. Cryptococcosis. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 344.
Thigpen MC, Whitney CG, Messonnier NE, et al. Emerging Infections Programs Network. Bacterial meningitis in the United States, 1998-2007. N Engl J Med. 2011 May 26;364(21):2016-25.
Updated by: David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc. Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital.
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