What is cryptococcal meningitis?

Cryptococcal meningitis is an infection due to fungus that results to the inflammation of the meninges. The meninges are the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord.

There are 2 forms of fungus that can trigger cryptococcal meningitis – Cryptococcus neoformans and gattii. This type of meningitis is prevalent among individuals who have compromised immune systems such as those with AIDS.


The indications of cryptococcal meningitis usually arise slowly. In a few days, up to a few weeks of exposure, an infected individual might develop the following:


In some instances, the individual might have fever and a stiff neck.

  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy
  • Mental changes including hallucinations, confusion and personality changes
  • Light sensitivity

In some instances, the individual might have fever and a stiff neck. If the condition is not promptly treated, it can lead to serious symptoms such as:

  • Hearing loss
  • Brain damage
  • Hydrocephalus
  • Coma

What are the causes?

The fungus Cryptococcus neoformans is the usual cause of most cases. The fungus is present in soil all over the globe, usually in soil that contains bird droppings.

As for Cryptococcus gattii, it is linked with trees, specifically eucalyptus. It thrives in debris found around the base of the eucalyptus tree.

Cryptococcal meningitis typically arises among those who have a compromised or weakened immune system. It rarely affects those who have a healthy immune system.

Treatment of cryptococcal meningitis

An individual with cryptococcal meningitis is usually given antifungal medications, usually amphotericin B which is taken daily. The doctor will closely monitor the individual while under treatment to watch out for nephrotoxicity (toxic to the kidneys). The medication is administered intravenously.

Flucytosine which is another type of antifungal might also be given while under amphotericin B. This combination helps manage the condition more rapidly than amphotericin B alone.

Spinal fluid testing might be done repeated while under treatment. If the results yield negative for cryptococcal meningitis for 2 weeks, the doctor will stop the medications. In some cases, the individual might switch to only fluconazole which is taken for around 8 weeks.