Causes, incidence, and risk factors
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:
Cirrhosis (a type of liver disease)
Receiving an organ transplant
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:
Mental status change
- Nausea and vomiting
- Sensitivity to light (
- Stiff neck
Signs and tests
A doctor or nurse will examine you. This will usually show:
Fast heart rate
Mental status changes
A lumbar puncture (“
Tests that may be done include:
Cryptococcal antigen in CSF or blood
CSF examination for cell count, glucose, and protein
CT scan of the head
Gram stain, other special stains, and
culture of CSF
Antifungal medications are used to treat this form of meningitis.
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.
Calling your health care provider
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:
Persistent, unexplained fever