Cryptococcal Meningitis

Symptoms, Doctors, Treatments, Research & More

Condition 101

What is the definition of Cryptococcal Meningitis?

Cryptococcal meningitis is a fungal infection of the tissues covering the brain and spinal cord. These tissues are called meninges.

What are the alternative names for Cryptococcal Meningitis?

Cryptococcal meningitis

What are the causes for Cryptococcal Meningitis?

In most cases, cryptococcal meningitis is caused by the fungus Cryptococcus neoformans. This fungus is found in soil around the world. Cryptococcus gattii can also cause meningitis.

This type of meningitis is not spread from person to person. Usually, it spreads through the bloodstream to the brain from another place in the body that has the infection.

Cryptococcal meningitis most often affects people with a weakened immune system, including people with:

  • AIDS
  • Cirrhosis (a type of liver disease)
  • Diabetes
  • Leukemia
  • Lymphoma
  • Sarcoidosis
  • An organ transplant

The disease is rare in people who have a normal immune system and no long-term health problems.

What are the symptoms for Cryptococcal Meningitis?

This form of meningitis starts slowly, over a few days to a few weeks. Symptoms may include:

  • Fever
  • Hallucinations
  • Headache
  • Mental status change (confusion)
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Stiff neck

What are the current treatments for Cryptococcal Meningitis?

Antifungal medicines are used to treat this form of meningitis. Intravenous (IV, through a vein) therapy with amphotericin B is the most common treatment. It is often combined with an oral antifungal medicine called 5-flucytosine.

Another oral drug, fluconazole, in high doses may also be effective. If needed, it will be prescribed later in the disease course.

What is the outlook (prognosis) for Cryptococcal Meningitis?

People who recover from cryptococcal meningitis need long-term medicine to prevent the infection from coming back. People with weakened immune systems, such as those with HIV/AIDS, will also need long-term treatment to improve their immune system.

What are the possible complications for Cryptococcal Meningitis?

These complications may occur from this infection:

  • Brain damage
  • Hearing or vision loss
  • Hydrocephalus (excessive CSF in the brain)
  • Seizures
  • Death

Amphotericin B can have side effects such as:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fever and chills
  • Joint and muscles aches
  • Kidney damage

When should I contact a medical professional for Cryptococcal Meningitis?

Call your local emergency number (such as 911) if you develop any of the serious symptoms listed above. Meningitis can quickly become a life-threatening illness.

Call your local emergency number or go to an emergency room if you suspect meningitis in a young child who has these symptoms:

  • Feeding difficulties
  • High-pitched cry
  • Irritability
  • Persistent, unexplained fever


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Fungal meningitis. Updated April 15, 2016. Accessed December 14, 2018.

Kauffman CA. Cryptococcosis. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 336.

Perfect JR. Cryptococcosis (Cryptococcus neoformans and Cryptococcus gattii). In: Bennett JE, Dolin R, Blaser MJ, eds. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases, Updated Edition. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 264.

Latest Research

Latest Advance
  • Condition: Human Immunodeficiency Virus-negative Cryptococcal Meningitis
  • Journal: Medicine
  • Treatment Used: Surgery
  • Number of Patients: 42
  • Published —
In this study, researchers evaluated the outcomes of undergoing surgery for the treatment of human immunodeficiency virus-negative cryptococcal meningitis.
Latest Advance
  • Condition: Refractory Deterioration of Cryptococcal Meningitis
  • Journal: Journal of clinical neuroscience : official journal of the Neurosurgical Society of Australasia
  • Treatment Used: Corticosteroids
  • Number of Patients: 1
  • Published —
This case report discusses a 55-year-old man with Cryptococcus neoformans meningitis who showed refractory deterioration twice treated with systemic corticosteroids.

Clinical Trials

Clinical Trial
  • Status: Recruiting
  • Study Type: Other
  • Participants: 161
  • Start Date: February 5, 2020
The Lived Experience of Participants in an African Randomised Trial