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What Is Cryptococcus? Symptoms, Causes, Complications And Treatments

Cryptococcus is a type of cytotoxic (toxic to living cells) fungus that causes cryptococcosis infection. It is usually linked to immunocompromised people. The infection is spread mainly through inhaling spores present in bird droppings or contaminated soil.

There are two species of cryptococcus that are connected with infections in humans: cryptococcus neoformans and cryptococcus gatti. The organism is common in tropical and subtropical areas of the world. In India, cases of cryptococcus are also rare. [1]

As per recent news reports, a 18-year-old was admitted to a Mumbai-based hospital after she complained of breathlessness and fever for around four months. She was earlier admitted to another private hospital suspecting tuberculosis. Later, when her oxygen levels started dropping in spite of treatment, she was moved to the Mumbai-based hospital, where she was diagnosed with cryptococcusis.

Here are the details on cryptococcus. Take a look.

Causes Of Cryptococcosis

Cryptococcosis is mainly spread through inhalation; the primary organ that is affects is the lungs. Patients infected with the fungus type often have asymptomatic, self-limiting initial lung lesions. In individuals whose immune system is strong, the infection may not spread and usually heals in a short time without any antifungal therapy, while in immunocompromised individuals, the infection can be life-threatening. [2]

Cryptococcus may spread in the brain and meninges after inhalation, and cause multifocal intracerebral lesions, that could be life-threatening and require immediate medical attention.

Some of the sites where the fungus may spread include the skin, joints, spleen, liver, end of long bones, tissues, kidney and prostate.

Symptoms Of Cryptococcosis

Some of the symptoms of cryptococcosis may include:

  • Frequent headache.
  • Low grade fever. [3]
  • Confusion
  • Blurred vision
  • Behavioural changes
  • Nausea
  • Stiffness in the neck.
  • Cough [4]
  • Chest pain
  • Breathlessness
  • Skin rash
  • Sweating
  • Fatigue
  • Pain in joints.
  • Weight loss

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Risk Factors Of Cryptococcosis

In healthy individuals, cryptococcosis is rare. People with immunocompromised conditions are at greater risk of getting the infection. Some of them are:

  • People with advanced HIV. [5]
  • People who have undergone organ transplant.
  • People taking medicines like corticosteroids. [6]
  • People diagnosed with cancer.
  • People with Hodgkin's disease. [7]

Complications Of Cryptococcosis

Some of the complications of cryptococcosis include:

  • Altered mental status.
  • Blindness
  • Pneumonia with acute dyspnea.
  • Skin cancer.

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Diagnosis Of Cryptococcosis

Firstly, medical experts may ask for a medical history and evaluate the physical symptoms to diagnose the condition. If they doubt the infection, they may ask for test results like:

  • Cerebrospinal fluid analysis: To diagnose meningitis due to Cryptococcus.
  • Chest X-ray: To get clear view of the infection in the lungs.
  • Blood and urine culture: To find fungus stains in the body fluids.

Treatments Of Cryptococcosis

Treatment for cryptococcosis is based on the severity and site of the infection. Also, the treatment method is customised as per the requirement of the patient.

Some of the treatment methods for cryptococcosis include:

  • Medications: It includes medications like amphotericin B to treat cryptococcosis infection in the brain (cryptococcosis meningitis).
  • Antifungal therapy: It is mainly carried out in patients with immunocompromised conditions following cryptococcosis. The treatment helps target the fungal pathogen without causing any other complications.

To Conclude

Cryptococcosis could be life-threatening for an individual with a weak immune system. If the infection is prevalent in your area, it is best to wear a mask and stay away from soil and bird droppings. Consult a medical expert immediately if you develop the aforementioned symptoms.

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