Cryptococcal Infections

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The page below is a sample from the LabCE course Fungal Infections in Humans. Access the complete course and earn ASCLS P.A.C.E.-approved continuing education credits by subscribing online.

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Cryptococcal Infections

Cryptococcus species are commonly found in soil contaminated by bird droppings and in decaying wood and tree hollows. The Cryptococcus capsule is comprised of the polysaccharides glucuronoxylomannan and glucuronoxylomannogalactan, which are the major factors contributing to virulence.
Infection usually occurs by inhalation of spores4,5 from the environment. The initial infection is mostly asymptomatic and is self-limited in healthy individuals. The spread of the disease from the initial sites of infection occurs through hematogenous dissemination in immune-suppressed patients. An additional way by which infection can develop is through reactivation of the organism at the initial site of infection after several years when the patient becomes immunocompromised.
C. neoformans and C. gatti both spread through inhalation and cause a similar spectrum of illness. Although infection most often occurs by inhalation of cryptococci, diseases of the central nervous system, such as meningoencephalitis, are the most common clinical manifestations. Clinical features of cryptococcal meningitis typically manifest within a period of 1-2 weeks and include fever, malaise, headache, neck stiffness, photophobia, nausea, and vomiting. The disease may rarely progress to coma and death. Symptoms such as a cough, dyspnea, and skin rash have been reported to occur rarely. Physical examination sometimes reveals focal neurological deficits and elevated diastolic pressure indicative of raised intracranial pressure.
4. Frerichs AB, Huang M, Ortiz SC, Hull CM. Methods for Manipulating Cryptococcus Spores. Journal of Fungi (Basel). 2021;8(1):4. Published 2021 Dec 22. doi:10.3390/jof8010004
5. Velagapudi R, Hsueh YP, Geunes-Boyer S, Wright JR, Heitman J. Spores as infectious propagules of Cryptococcus neoformans. Infect Immun. 2009;77(10):4345-4355. doi:10.1128/IAI.00542-09