Cryptococcus is a type of fungus that is found in the soil worldwide, usually in association with bird droppings. The major species of Cryptococcus that causes illness in human is Cryptococcus neoformans. Another less common species that can also cause disease in humans, Cryptococcus gattii, has been isolated from eucalyptus trees in tropical and sub-tropical regions. Since 1999, C. gattii has also been found in regions of the Pacific Northwest, particularly Victoria Island in British Columbia, and Oregon and Washington in the United States. Incubation times vary for infection due to Cryptococcus species. Symptoms of C. gattii infection are estimated to begin anywhere from 2-11 months after exposure. The incubation time for C. neoformans is not known.
HOW IS CRYPTOCOCCOSIS DIAGNOSED?
The diagnosis can be made by microscopic examination and/or culture of tissue or body fluids such as blood, cerebrospinal fluid, and sputum. The cryptococcal antigen test is a rapid test that can be performed on blood and/or on cerebrospinal fluid to make the diagnosis.
HOW IS CRYPTOCOCCOSIS TREATED?
Treatment of meningoencephalitis and other severe infections is usually initiated with an amphotericin B formulation, with or without flucytosine. Fluconazole is used for maintenance therapy in HIV-infected patients with cryptococcal meningoencephalitis, and may be used for patients with milder forms of infection not involving the central nervous system.
DID YOU KNOW?
Cryptococcal infections usually spread through bird droppings.