Cryptococcus gattii (C. gattii)
Cryptococcosis is the disease caused by the fungus Cryptoccus. Infections with C. gattii have occurred in both healthy persons without compromised immune systems and in persons with conditions affecting their immune system. A wide range of animals can also develop C. gattii infection. C. gattii spores appear to live in association with certain trees and the soil around trees. Humans and animals can become infected by inhalation of airborne fungi which are spread from these sources. C. gattii infection is not known to be spread from person to person, animal to animal, or from animals to humans. Infection with C. gattii may cause a pneumonia-like illness, with shortness of breath, coughing, nausea, and fever. Another common form of C. gattii infection is central nervous system infection, such as meningoencephalitis. Symptoms may include fever, headache, or a change in mental status. Symptoms from C. gattii infection are estimated to begin anywhere from 2-14 months after exposure. Treatment of C. gattii sometimes requires prolonged therapy with antifungal drugs.
C. gattii infection is diagnosed by microscopic examination and/or culture of tissue or body fluids such as blood, cerebrospinal fluid and sputum. The cryptococcal antigen test is a rapid test that can be performed on blood and/or cerebrospinal fluid to make the diagnosis. Culture of the organism is essential to differentiate between the two species, but C. gattii cannot currently be distinguished from C. neoformans without special laboratory testing available through special laboratories and the state health department.
There are no formal recommendations for the prevention of C. gattii infection. However, patients with signs and symptoms of infection are urged to see their physician for medical evaluation.