What is Cryptococcosis?
Cryptococcosis is a life-threatening fungal disease caused by pathogenic species-complexes within the genus Cryptococcus, namely Cryptococcus neoformans and Cryptococcus gattii. Cryptococcosis is a severe opportunistic infection of individuals with impaired T-cell mediated immunity due to HIV infection or other causes. Rarely, cryptococcosis also occurs among persons with no obvious immune deficiency.
The fungus, Cryptococcus is found worldwide in decaying organic matter, soil, bird droppings and associated with trees. Latent (dormant) infection occurs in almost all people who are exposed to Cryptococcus. However, with immune suppression, the fungus reactivates (“wakes up”) and spreads to the brain, and sometimes other organs via the bloodstream. Following reactivation, meningitis is the most common manifestation. Cryptococcosis remains a major cause of mortality in HIV-infected individuals worldwide (second only to tuberculosis), despite the now widespread use of antiretroviral therapy (ART).