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Cryptococcus gattii infection: Clinical features and diagnosis

Sharon Chen, PhD, MBBS, FRACP, FRCPA
Kieren A Marr, MD
Tania C Sorrell, MD
Section Editor
Carol A Kauffman, MD
Deputy Editor
Jennifer Mitty, MD, MPH


Cryptococcus gattii has emerged as an important fungal pathogen. Infection manifests most often as potentially fatal meningoencephalitis and/or pulmonary disease. The emergence of clusters of cryptococcosis due to C. gattii in British Columbia, Canada, in 1999, with subsequent spread to the United States Pacific Northwest, has challenged our understanding of this disease [1,2]. C. gattii infection had previously been detected infrequently and was thought to be largely restricted to tropical and subtropical regions, including Australia and Papua New Guinea. It is now clear that sporadic cases occur in various regions around the world.

The clinical manifestations, complications, and diagnosis of C. gattii infection will be reviewed here. The microbiology, epidemiology, pathogenesis, and treatment of C. gattii infection are discussed separately; C. neoformans infection is also reviewed elsewhere. (See "Cryptococcus gattii infection: Microbiology, epidemiology, and pathogenesis" and "Cryptococcus gattii infection: Treatment" and "Microbiology and epidemiology of Cryptococcus neoformans infection" and "Epidemiology, clinical manifestations, and diagnosis of Cryptococcus neoformans meningoencephalitis in HIV-infected patients" and "Clinical manifestations and diagnosis of Cryptococcus neoformans meningoencephalitis in HIV-seronegative patients" and "Cryptococcus neoformans infection outside the central nervous system" and "Treatment of Cryptococcus neoformans meningoencephalitis and disseminated infection in HIV seronegative patients".)


Incubation period — The incubation period of C. gattii infection is uncertain. A study of seven travelers to Vancouver Island, British Columbia, revealed a median time to clinical presentation of six to seven months (range 2 to 11 months) [3]. A subsequent report of a traveler to British Columbia suggested a shorter incubation of six weeks [4], whereas other reports have described patients who developed infection 13 months and 36 months after exposure, respectively [5,6]. The proportion of C. gattii disease representing acute infection versus reactivation of latent infection remains unknown.

Clinical features — C. gattii infection often presents as an indolent illness and most commonly involves the central nervous system (CNS), the lungs, or both. Clinical findings vary with the site(s) of infection.

Systemic features including fever, chills, and weight loss were reported in 17 to 47 percent of patients in the North American Pacific Northwest outbreak [7-9]. Fever was reported in 54 percent of HIV-infected patients with C. gattii infection in South Africa [10] but was uncommon (10 percent) in another study of patients with C. gattii infection in Australia [11].


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Literature review current through: Sep 2016. | This topic last updated: May 26, 2015.
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