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1.  Cryptococcal Meningitis Treatment Strategies in Resource-Limited Settings: A Cost-Effectiveness Analysis 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(9):e1001316.
David Boulware and colleagues assess the cost effectiveness of different treatment strategies in low- and middle-income countries for cryptococcal meningitis, one of the most common opportunistic infections of people with HIV.
Cryptococcal meningitis (CM) is the most common form of meningitis in Africa. World Health Organization guidelines recommend 14-d amphotericin-based induction therapy; however, this is impractical for many resource-limited settings due to cost and intensive monitoring needs. A cost-effectiveness analysis was performed to guide stakeholders with respect to optimal CM treatment within resource limitations.
Methods and Findings:
We conducted a decision analysis to estimate the incremental cost-effectiveness ratio (ICER) of six CM induction regimens: fluconazole (800–1,200 mg/d) monotherapy, fluconazole + flucytosine (5FC), short-course amphotericin (7-d) + fluconazole, 14-d of amphotericin alone, amphotericin + fluconazole, and amphotericin + 5FC. We computed actual 2012 healthcare costs in Uganda for medications, supplies, and personnel, and average laboratory costs for three African countries. A systematic review of cryptococcal treatment trials in resource-limited areas summarized 10-wk survival outcomes. We modeled one-year survival based on South African, Ugandan, and Thai CM outcome data, and survival beyond one-year on Ugandan and Thai data. Quality-adjusted life years (QALYs) were determined and used to calculate the cost-effectiveness ratio and ICER. The cost of hospital care ranged from $154 for fluconazole monotherapy to $467 for 14 d of amphotericin + 5FC. Based on 18 studies investigating outcomes for HIV-infected individuals with CM in resource-limited settings, the estimated mean one-year survival was lowest for fluconazole monotherapy, at 40%. The cost-effectiveness ratio ranged from $20 to $44 per QALY. Overall, amphotericin-based regimens had higher costs but better survival. Short-course amphotericin (1 mg/kg/d for 7 d) with fluconazole (1,200 mg/d for14 d) had the best one-year survival (66%) and the most favorable cost-effectiveness ratio, at $20.24/QALY, with an ICER of $15.11 per additional QALY over fluconazole monotherapy. The main limitation of this study is the pooled nature of a systematic review, with a paucity of outcome data with direct comparisons between regimens.
Short-course (7-d) amphotericin induction therapy coupled with high-dose (1,200 mg/d) fluconazole is “very cost effective” per World Health Organization criteria and may be a worthy investment for policy-makers seeking cost-effective clinical outcomes. More head-to-head clinical trials are needed on treatments for this neglected tropical disease.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary.
Editors' Summary
Cryptococcal meningitis, a fungal infection of the membranes around the brain and spinal cord, affects about a million people every year (most of them living in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia) and kills about 640,000 people annually. People become infected with Cryptococcus neoformans, the fungus that causes cryptococcal meningitis and which is found in soil and dirt, by breathing it in. In healthy individuals, infection rarely causes disease. But in people living with AIDS, whose immune system has been damaged by HIV infection, and in people whose immune system is compromised for other reasons, the fungus can invade and damage many organs, including the brain. Cryptococcal meningitis, the symptoms of which include fever, stiff neck, headache, and vomiting, is diagnosed by looking for the fungus in fluid taken from the spinal cord in a procedure called a lumbar puncture. Cryptococcal meningitis is treated with antifungal drugs such as amphotericin, fluconazole, and flucytosine (induction therapy); recurrence of the infection is prevented by taking fluconazole daily for life or until the immune system recovers.
Why Was This Study Done?
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends a 14-day regimen of intravenous (injected) amphotericin and oral flucytosine or fluconazole for induction therapy of cryptococcal meningitis. Unfortunately, this regimen is impractical in many resource-limited settings because of the cost of the drugs and hospital care and the need for intensive monitoring—amphotericin is extremely toxic. Consequently, high-dose fluconazole monotherapy is the usual treatment for cryptococcal meningitis in resource-limited countries, although this regimen is much less effective. Another regimen that has improved survival in trials is flucytosine with fluconazole for two weeks. However, flucytosine is very expensive and is not licensed in most sub-Saharan African countries. Stakeholders in developing countries badly need guidance, therefore, on which induction treatment for cryptococcal meningitis they should recommend to optimize outcomes in their particular countries. In this cost-effectiveness analysis (a study that compares the costs and health effects of different interventions), the researchers use costs in Uganda to estimate the survival, cost, and cost per benefit associated with various induction treatments for cryptococcal meningitis in HIV-infected patients.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers calculated the overall cost of six induction treatments using 2012 healthcare costs in Uganda for medications, supplies, and hospital care, and average laboratory costs for monitoring treatment from three African countries. They used data from published trials of cryptococcal meningitis treatment in resource-limited areas to estimate ten-week and one-year survival, life expectancy, and quality-adjusted life years (QALYs, the number of years of life added by an intervention, adjusted for the quality of life) for each intervention. Finally, they calculated the cost-effectiveness ratio (cost per QALY gained) and the incremental cost effectiveness ratio (ICER, the additional cost of a treatment strategy compared to fluconazole monotherapy divided by the incremental improvement in QALYs) for each intervention. The estimated costs per person for each induction treatment strategy ranged from US$154 for 14 days of fluconazole monotherapy to US$467 for 14 days of amphotericin plus flucytosine. Estimated average one-year survival was lowest for fluconazole (40%) and highest for short-course (seven days) amphotericin plus 14 days of fluconazole (66%), similar to other amphotericin-based treatments. Cost-effectiveness ratios ranged from US$20 per QALY for short-course amphotericin plus fluconazole to US$44 per QALY for 14 days of amphotericin plus flucytosine. Short-course amphotericin plus fluconazole had the lowest ICER (US$15.11 per additional QALY over fluconazole monotherapy).
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that, among the treatments investigated, a seven-day course of amphotericin with high-dose fluconazole for at least two weeks is the most cost-effective induction treatment for cryptococcal meningitis in Uganda. Although this result should be generalizable to other African countries, it needs to be treated with caution because very few trials have actually looked at the clinical effectiveness of this particular regimen. While short short-course amphotericin appears to be substantially more effective than fluconazole monotherapy, large-scale trials comparing short-course amphotericin regimens with more traditional 14-day regimens in resource-limited countries must be undertaken before short-course amphotericin-based treatments are adopted. Notably, however, if these trials confirm that survival with short-course amphotericin with fluconazole is about 30% better than with fluconazole alone, the researchers calculate that moving to short-course amphotericin could save about 150,000 lives every year in sub-Saharan Africa at a cost of US$220 per life saved.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at
This study is further discussed in a PLOS Medicine Perspective by Andrew Farlow provides a clearinghouse for updated guidelines for cryptococcal diagnosis and treatment.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information on Cryptococcus neoformans and a training manual called the Cryptococcal Screening Program Training Manual for Healthcare Providers
NAM/aidsmap provides information about all aspects of infection with Cryptococcus neoformans, including a personal story about cryptococcal meningitis
AIDS InfoNet has a fact sheet on cryptococcal meningitis (in several languages)
The not-for-profit organization Project Inform, which provides information, inspiration, and advocacy for people with HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C (in English and Spanish), has a fact sheet on cryptococcal meningitis
The MedlinePlus encyclopedia has a page on cryptococcal meningitis (in English and Spanish)
PMCID: PMC3463510  PMID: 23055838
2.  Combination Antifungal Therapy for Cryptococcal Meningitis 
The New England journal of medicine  2013;368(14):1291-1302.
Combination antifungal therapy (amphotericin B deoxycholate and flucytosine) is the recommended treatment for cryptococcal meningitis but has not been shown to reduce mortality, as compared with amphotericin B alone. We performed a randomized, controlled trial to determine whether combining flucytosine or high-dose fluconazole with high-dose amphotericin B improved survival at 14 and 70 days.
We conducted a randomized, three-group, open-label trial of induction therapy for cryptococcal meningitis in patients with human immunodeficiency virus infection. All patients received amphotericin B at a dose of 1 mg per kilogram of body weight per day; patients in group 1 were treated for 4 weeks, and those in groups 2 and 3 for 2 weeks. Patients in group 2 concurrently received flucytosine at a dose of 100 mg per kilogram per day for 2 weeks, and those in group 3 concurrently received fluconazole at a dose of 400 mg twice daily for 2 weeks.
A total of 299 patients were enrolled. Fewer deaths occurred by days 14 and 70 among patients receiving amphotericin B and flucytosine than among those receiving amphotericin B alone (15 vs. 25 deaths by day 14; hazard ratio, 0.57; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.30 to 1.08; unadjusted P = 0.08; and 30 vs. 44 deaths by day 70; hazard ratio, 0.61; 95% CI, 0.39 to 0.97; unadjusted P = 0.04). Combination therapy with fluconazole had no significant effect on survival, as compared with monotherapy (hazard ratio for death by 14 days, 0.78; 95% CI, 0.44 to 1.41; P = 0.42; hazard ratio for death by 70 days, 0.71; 95% CI, 0.45 to 1.11; P = 0.13). amphotericin B plus flucytosine was associated with significantly increased rates of yeast clearance from cerebrospinal fluid (−0.42 log10 colony-forming units [CFU] per milliliter per day vs. −0.31 and −0.32 log10 CFU per milliliter per day in groups 1 and 3, respectively; P<0.001 for both comparisons). Rates of adverse events were similar in all groups, although neutropenia was more frequent in patients receiving a combination therapy.
Amphotericin B plus flucytosine, as compared with amphotericin B alone, is associated with improved survival among patients with cryptococcal meningitis. A survival benefit of amphotericin B plus fluconazole was not found. (Funded by the Wellcome Trust and the British Infection Society; number, ISRCTN95123928.)
PMCID: PMC3978204  PMID: 23550668
3.  Determinants of Disease Presentation and Outcome during Cryptococcosis: The CryptoA/D Study  
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(2):e21.
Cryptococcosis is a life-threatening opportunistic fungal infection in both HIV-positive and -negative patients. Information on clinical presentation and therapeutic guidelines, derived mostly from clinical trials performed before introduction of highly active antiretroviral therapy in patients with cryptococcal meningoencephalitis, is missing data on extrameningeal involvement and infections by serotype D as opposed to serotype A of Cryptococcus neoformans.
Methods and Findings
The prospective multicenter study CryptoA/D was designed in France (1997–2001) to analyse the factors influencing clinical presentation and outcome without the bias of inclusion into therapeutic trials. Of the 230 patients enrolled, 177 (77%) were HIV-positive, 50 (22%) were female, and 161 (72.5%) were infected with serotype A. Based on culture results at baseline, cryptococcosis was more severe in men, in HIV-positive patients, and in patients infected with serotype A. Factors independently associated with mycological failure at week 2 independent of HIV status were initial dissemination (OR, 2.4 [95% confidence interval (CI), 1.2–4.9]), high (>1:512) serum antigen titre (OR, 2.6 [1.3–5.4]), and lack of flucytosine during induction therapy (OR, 3.8 [1.9–7.8]). The three-month survival was shorter in patients with abnormal neurology or brain imaging at baseline, and in those with haematological malignancy.
Thus sex, HIV status, and infecting serotype are major determinants of presentation and outcome during cryptococcosis. We propose a modification of current guidelines for the initial management of cryptococcosis based on systematic fungal burden evaluation.
Françoise Dromer and colleagues report that sex, HIV status, and infecting serotype are major determinants of cryptococcosis presentation and outcome.
Editors' Summary
For people with a healthy immune system, athletes' foot may be the only fungal infection they ever have. But individuals whose immune system has been damaged by infection with HIV or who are immune-suppressed after organ transplantation or cancer chemotherapy can develop cryptococcosis. This is a life-threatening infection caused by Cryptococcus neoformans, a fungus found in bird droppings that enters the human body through the lungs. The initial infection can go unnoticed, although a pneumonia-like disease sometimes develops. However, if the fungus spreads (disseminates) around the body it can cause other symptoms. The commonest of these is cryptococcal meningitis, a swelling of the membrane around the brain that can cause a stiff neck, headaches, and neurological symptoms such as palsies. For anyone with cryptococcal meningitis or severe pneumonia the current treatment guidelines recommend a two-week induction therapy with the antifungal drugs amphotericin B and flucytosine, followed by fluconazole for ten weeks.
Why Was This Study Done?
Even when these guidelines are followed, cryptococcosis kills some people. The guidelines are based on data from clinical trials of antifungal drugs in HIV-positive patients done before there were effective treatments for HIV infections. Patients without meningitis and those with very severe disease were excluded from these trials. Also, it is known that two variants of C. neoformans cause cryptococcosis: variety grubii (also known as serotype A) and variety neoformans (serotype D). There is very little information about the impact of patient-related factors (such as sex, age, and HIV status) or the variety of C. neoformans on clinical presentation (the symptoms patients have when they first visit a doctor), therapeutic management, or disease outcomes in the real world; this information is needed to improve the treatment guidelines. In this nationwide study across France, the researchers have asked what factors influence clinical presentation and outcomes in HIV-positive and HIV-negative patients with cryptococcosis, and whether infections with the two varieties of C. neoformans behave similarly.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
Patients were enrolled in the study when their first episode of cryptococcosis was confirmed by growing C. neoformans from blood, urine, or cerebrospinal fluid. Information was collected about their initial symptoms, which body sites were infected with fungus (their mycological status), and their treatment. Clinical and mycological data were also collected at two weeks and three months, and the blood levels of cryptococcal secreted molecules were measured to provide a “serum antigen titer,” a measure of fungal load. The researchers found that cryptococcosis was more severe at presentation in men, in HIV-positive patients, and in patients infected with C. neoformans variety grubii. Patients whose treatment failed at two weeks (judged by the continued presence of C. neoformans in culture of their body fluids) tended to have disseminated disease at presentation, to have high serum antigen titers, and not to have been given flucytosine during the initial round of therapy. Finally, three-month survival was worse in patients with abnormal neurology or brain imaging at the start of the study, or those with hematological malignancies (cancers that affect immune system cells).
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings provide new information on what determines the clinical presentation and outcome in patients with cryptococcosis. Because the study was done in France, these results will only apply to other countries where C. neoformans causes cryptococcosis—in some countries C. gattii can cause the disease. In addition, not all of the cryptococcosis cases that occurred in France during the study period were enrolled in the study, so it is possible that the infection might have had different characteristics in the missing patients. Nevertheless, the results of this study suggest that more patients would benefit from a two-week induction therapy with amphotericin B and flucytosine than currently recommended. This treatment, write the researchers, should be given to all patients with a high serum antigen titer, fungus in the blood, or initial infection at two separate body sites (in addition to those with cryptococcal meningitis or severe pneumonia for whom it is currently recommended). They also suggest that the fungal burden should be routinely determined in all patients so that their treatment can be adjusted if necessary.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
A related PLoS Medicine Perspective article discusses current management of cryptococcosis
MedlinePlus has encyclopedia pages on cryptococcosis
US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information on cryptococcosis
Aidsmap has information on cryptococcosis and research into the disease provided by the charity NAM
A Clinical Infectious Diseases article published in 2000 states the current treatment guidelines for the management of cryptococcosis
PMCID: PMC1808080  PMID: 17284154
4.  Clinical Features and Serum Biomarkers in HIV Immune Reconstitution Inflammatory Syndrome after Cryptococcal Meningitis: A Prospective Cohort Study 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(12):e1000384.
David Boulware and colleagues investigate clinical features in a prospective cohort with AIDS and recent cryptococcal meningitis after initiation of antiretroviral therapy to identify biomarkers for prediction and diagnosis of CM-IRIS (cryptococcal meninigitis-related immune reconstitution inflammatory syndrome).
Although antiretroviral therapy (ART) improves survival in persons with cryptococcal meningitis (CM) and AIDS, ART frequently elicits HIV immune reconstitution inflammatory syndrome (IRIS), an exaggerated and frequently deadly inflammatory reaction that complicates recovery from immunodeficiency. The pathogenesis of IRIS is poorly understood and prediction of IRIS is not possible.
Methods and Findings
We prospectively followed 101 ART-naïve Ugandans with AIDS and recent CM for one year after initiating ART, and used Luminex multiplex assays to compare serum cytokine levels in participants who did or did not develop IRIS. IRIS occurred in 45% of participants with recent CM on ART, including 30% with central nervous system (CNS) manifestations. The median time to CM-IRIS was 8.8 wk on ART. Overall mortality on ART was 36% with IRIS and 21% without IRIS. CM-IRIS was independently associated with death (HR = 2.3, 95% CI 1.1–5.1, p = 0.04). Patients experiencing subsequent CM-IRIS had 4-fold higher median serum cryptococcal antigen (CRAG) levels pre-ART (p = 0.006). Higher pre-ART levels of interleukin (IL)-4 and IL-17 as well as lower tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α, granulocyte colony-stimulating factor (G-CSF), granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF), and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) predicted future IRIS in multivariate analyses (area under the curve [AUC] = 0.82). An algorithm based on seven pre-ART serum biomarkers was a robust tool for stratifying high (83%), moderate (48%), and low risk (23%) for IRIS in the cohort. After ART was initiated, increasing levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), D-dimer, IL-6, IL-7, IL-13, G-CSF, or IL-1RA were associated with increasing hazard of IRIS by time-to-event analysis (each p≤0.001). At the time of IRIS onset, multiple proinflammatory cytokine responses were present, including CRP and IL-6. Mortality was predicted by pre-ART increasing IL-17, decreasing GM-CSF, and CRP level >32 mg/l (highest quartile). Pre-ART CRP level >32 mg/l alone was associated with future death (OR = 8.3, 95% CI 2.7–25.6, p<0.001).
Pre-ART increases in Th17 and Th2 responses (e.g., IL-17, IL-4) and lack of proinflammatory cytokine responses (e.g., TNF-α, G-CSF, GM-CSF, VEGF) predispose individuals to subsequent IRIS, perhaps as biomarkers of immune dysfunction and poor initial clearance of CRAG. Although requiring validation, these biomarkers might be an objective tool to stratify the risk of CM-IRIS and death, and could be used clinically to guide when to start ART or use prophylactic interventions.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Since 1981, AIDS has killed more than 25 million people and about 33 million people are now infected with HIV, which causes AIDS. HIV, which is most often transmitted through unprotected sex with an HIV-infected partner, infects and kills immune system cells. Eventually, the immune system becomes so weak that unusual infections begin to occur. These “opportunistic” infections are infections that take advantage of the opportunity offered by a weakened immune system. One common and deadly opportunistic infection in people affected by AIDS is cryptococcal meningitis (CM), an infection around the brain that is caused by the fungus Cryptococcus neoformans. About one million cases of CM occur every year. CM can be treated with a drug called amphotericin but usually recurs unless another drug called fluconazole is taken daily thereafter. HIV therapy is lifesaving by suppressing the HIV virus and allowing immune system recovery. This immune recovery also helps to prevent the recurrence of CM.
Why Was This Study Done?
Unfortunately, HIV therapy can also elicit a serious condition called immune reconstitution inflammatory syndrome (IRIS) in people with CM and AIDS. IRIS is an exaggerated inflammatory immune response that kills up to one-third of affected people. Inflammation, which is characterized by swelling and redness, is the body's first defense against infection, but uncontrolled inflammation causes widespread tissue damage. Experts think that CM-IRIS may be the result of an unbalanced recovery of the immune system leading to an inappropriate immune response to persisting C. neoformans fragments and proteins that are slowly cleared from the body over months. Unfortunately, it is impossible to predict which individuals with CM and AIDS will develop IRIS when they are given HIV therapy. In this prospective study, the researchers investigated clinical features and cytokine profiles in a group of Ugandans with AIDS and recent CM for one year after starting HIV therapy to identify biomarkers that could be used to predict and diagnose CM-IRIS. Cytokines are proteins secreted by immune system cells that regulate the immune response; biomarkers are proteins found in the blood that indicate specific diseases.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers enrolled 101 Ugandans with AIDS and recent CM who had not previously received HIV therapy. They compared cytokine patterns in individuals who did and did not subsequently develop IRIS after starting HIV therapy. Overall, 45% of the patients developed IRIS. Deaths occurred in 36% of the patients who developed IRIS and in 21% of those who did not develop IRIS. Patients who developed CM-IRIS after starting HIV therapy had 4-fold higher baseline concentrations of cryptococcal antigen in their blood than patients who did not develop CM-IRIS. Prior to starting HIV therapy, higher levels of the cytokines IL-4 and IL-17 and lower levels of four cytokines—TNF-α, G-CSF, GM-CSF, and VEGF—predicted IRIS development, and an algorithm (formula) based on the baseline levels of seven serum biomarkers was able to group the patients into high, moderate, and low risk of IRIS. After starting HIV therapy, increasing levels of the inflammatory proteins C-reactive protein and D-dimer, and of several cytokines, were associated with an increased risk of IRIS. At the time of IRIS onset, the levels of many proinflammatory cytokine increased. Biomarkers also predicted death after starting HIV therapy with increasing levels of IL-17, decreasing levels of GM-CSF, and a C-reactive protein level of more than 32 mg/l (four times higher than normal) predicted death within one year.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings support the hypothesis that some AIDS patients who have a very damaged immune system have a very poor initial immune response and poor clearance of cryptococcus, which predisposes them to IRIS. The findings also identify three distinct phases of IRIS development. Before HIV therapy, a very damaged immune system with a lack of inflammatory responses to infection or inappropriate responses leads to ineffective clearance of the organism and its antigens. After HIV therapy is started, the presence of copious antigens promotes proinflammatory signaling to the immune system. As the immune system recovers proinflammatory immune cells are promoted. Finally, at the time of IRIS, a generalized “cytokine storm” occurs, which is potentially fatal when this inflammation occurs in the brain. The biomarkers identified here as indicators of a predisposition to IRIS need to be validated in more patients in more countries before they can be used as a clinical tool for predicting the risk of IRIS. If they are validated, they could help clinicians decide when to start HIV therapy in patients with AIDS and recent CM, and could guide the use of therapies that could help prevent the abnormal inflammatory responses.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at
The US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases provides information on HIV infection and AIDS
HIV InSite has information on all aspects of HIV/AIDS, including Knowledge Base Chapters on cryptococcosis and HIV and on the clinical implications of IRIS
Information is available from Avert, an international AIDS charity on all aspects of HIV/AIDS, including HIV-related opportunistic infections (in English and Spanish)
The MedlinePlus encyclopedia has a page on cryptococcal meningitis (in English and Spanish)
AIDS InfoNet provides fact sheets on many HIV/AIDS topics, including a fact sheet on cryptococcal meningitis (in several languages) and treatment guidelines for opportunistic infections
PMCID: PMC3014618  PMID: 21253011
5.  Management of cryptococcal meningitis in HIV-infected patients: Experience from western India 
Cryptococcal meningitis is one of the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome defining infections with high mortality. Amphotericin B is the preferred drug for induction therapy. Despite advances in human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) treatment, Antiretroviral Treatment (ART) roll-out programs and availability of amphotericin B, cryptococcal meningitis remains an important cause of mortality in the African and other developing countries.
Materials and Methods:
We carried out a prospective observational study to determine the treatment response rate, tolerability and outcome of patients with cryptococcal meningitis in HIV treated with amphotericin B. Descriptive statistic was used to analyze the data.
A total of 27 patients were diagnosed with cryptococcal meningitis during the study period. Headache (96.29%) was the single most common presenting symptom of cryptococcal meningitis in HIV-infected patients, followed by vomiting (77.77%) and fever (66.66%). Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) routine and microscopic examination was within normal limits in six patients. CSF became sterile on the 12th day of Amphotericin B in 55.55% of the patients while 33.33% had positive CSF cultures. Patients were started with ART after achieving sterile CSF and tolerated at least 2 weeks of fluconazole consolidation treatment and were free from symptoms. Median time for antiretroviral treatment initiation was 35 (14–90) days after completion of Amphotericin B treatment. One patient developed immune reconstitution inflammatory syndrome (IRIS) after ART.
We found that the recommended 2 weeks induction treatment with Amphotericin B monotherapy for HIV patients with cryptococcal meningitis in resource-limited settings may be suboptimal for at least one-third of the patients. Extending the therapy to 3 weeks is likely to result in sterilization of the CSF in a majority of these patients. This finding requires confirmation by a larger sample size in appropriately powered studies. Delaying ART initiation by at least 2 weeks after amphotericin B treatment may decrease the incidence of IRIS.
PMCID: PMC3140144  PMID: 21808432
Amphotericin B; cryptococcal meningitis; HIV
6.  Combination flucytosine and high dose fluconazole is superior to fluconazole monotherapy for cryptococcal meningitis: a randomized trial in Malawi 
Cryptococcal meningitis is a major cause of HIV-associated morbidity and mortality in Africa. Improved oral treatment regimens are needed, as amphotericin B is neither available nor feasible in many centers. Fluconazole 1200 mg/d is more fungicidal than 800 mg/d, but mortality remains unacceptably high. Therefore we examined the effect of adding oral flucytosine to fluconazole.
HIV-seropositive, antiretroviral-naive patients with their first episode of cryptococcal meningitis were randomized to 14 days fluconazole 1200 mg/d alone, or with flucytosine 100 mg/kg/d, followed by fluconazole 800 mg/d with 10 weeks followup. The primary endpoint was early fungicidal activity (EFA), derived from quantitative cerebrospinal fluid cultures on Days 1, 3, 7, and 14. Secondary endpoints were safety, and 2- and 10-week mortality.
Forty-one patients were analyzed. Baseline mental status, cryptococcal burden, opening pressure, CD4 count, and HIV viral load were similar between groups. Combination therapy was more fungicidal than fluconazole alone: EFA −0.28 +/− 0.17 log CFU/ml/d vs. −0.11 +/− 0.09 log CFU/ml/d (p < 0.001). The combination arm had fewer deaths by 2 weeks (10% vs. 37%) and 10 weeks (43% vs. 58%). More patients had grade III or IV neutropenia with combination therapy (5 vs. 1, within first 2 weeks, p=0.2), but there was no increase in infection-related adverse events.
The results suggest that optimal oral treatment for cryptococcal meningitis is high dose fluconazole with flucytosine. Efforts are needed to increase availability of flucytosine in Africa.
PMCID: PMC2805957  PMID: 20038244
Cryptococcal; Meningitis; AIDS; Fluconazole; Flucytosine
7.  In Vitro and In Vivo Efficacies of the New Triazole Albaconazole against Cryptococcus neoformans 
The activity of albaconazole (UR-9825; J. Uriach & Cía. S.A., Barcelona, Spain) was compared to that of fluconazole against 12 isolates of Cryptococcus neoformans in vitro and against 1 isolate in vivo in a rabbit model of cryptococcal meningitis. Albaconazole was 100-fold more potent in vitro than fluconazole on a per-weight basis and was fungicidal at potentially relevant concentrations for two isolates. MICs ranged from ≤0.0012 to 1.25 μg/ml, with the MICs for most isolates being between 0.039 and 0.156 μg/ml. Isolates were from human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-infected and non-HIV-infected patients and were of serotypes A, B, and C; and the fluconazole MICs for some of the isolates were elevated. Infected rabbits were treated with either fluconazole or albaconazole at dosages ranging from 5 to 80 mg/kg of body weight/day. The peak concentrations of albaconazole in serum and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) averaged 4.14 and 0.62 μg/ml, respectively, in animals receiving 80 mg/kg/day. Comparison of the concentrations in serum and CSF suggested a level of CSF penetration of approximately 15%. Despite limited penetration into the subarachnoid space, at all three doses tested albaconazole was as effective as fluconazole for the treatment of cryptococcal meningitis in rabbits.
PMCID: PMC321550  PMID: 14742184
8.  Universal screening of Tanzanian HIV-infected adult inpatients with the serum cryptococcal antigen to improve diagnosis and reduce mortality: an operational study 
Cryptococcal meningitis is a leading cause of death among HIV-infected individuals in sub-Saharan Africa. Recent developments include the availability of intravenous fluconazole, cryptococcal antigen assays and new data to support fluconazole pre-emptive treatment. In this study, we describe the impact of screening HIV-positive adult inpatients with serum cryptococcal antigen (CRAG) at a Tanzanian referral hospital.
All adults admitted to the medical ward of Bugando Medical Centre are counseled and tested for HIV. In this prospective cohort study, we consecutively enrolled HIV-positive patients admitted between September 2009 and January 2010. All patients were interviewed, examined and screened with serum CRAG. Patients with positive serum CRAG or signs of meningitis underwent lumbar puncture. Patients were managed according to standard World Health Organization treatment guidelines. Discharge diagnoses and in-hospital mortality were recorded.
Of 333 HIV-infected adults enrolled in our study, 15 (4.4%) had confirmed cryptococcal meningitis and 10 of these 15 (66%) died. All patients with cryptococcal meningitis had at least two of four classic symptoms and signs of meningitis: fever, headache, neck stiffness and altered mental status. Cryptococcal meningitis accounted for a quarter of all in-hospital deaths.
Despite screening of all HIV-positive adult inpatients with the serum CRAG at the time of admission and prompt treatment with high-dose intravenous fluconazole in those with confirmed cryptococcal meningitis, the in-hospital mortality rate remained unacceptably high. Improved strategies for earlier diagnosis and treatment of HIV, implementation of fluconazole pre-emptive treatment for high-risk patients and acquisition of better resources for treatment of cryptococcal meningitis are needed.
PMCID: PMC3197468  PMID: 21988905
9.  Timing of Antiretroviral Therapy after Diagnosis of Cryptococcal Meningitis 
The New England journal of medicine  2014;370(26):2487-2498.
Cryptococcal meningitis accounts for 20 to 25% of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome–related deaths in Africa. Antiretroviral therapy (ART) is essential for survival; however, the question of when ART should be initiated after diagnosis of cryptococcal meningitis remains unanswered.
We assessed survival at 26 weeks among 177 human immunodeficiency virus–infected adults in Uganda and South Africa who had cryptococcal meningitis and had not previously received ART. We randomly assigned study participants to undergo either earlier ART initiation (1 to 2 weeks after diagnosis) or deferred ART initiation (5 weeks after diagnosis). Participants received amphotericin B (0.7 to 1.0 mg per kilogram of body weight per day) and fluconazole (800 mg per day) for 14 days, followed by consolidation therapy with fluconazole.
The 26-week mortality with earlier ART initiation was significantly higher than with deferred ART initiation (45% [40 of 88 patients] vs. 30% [27 of 89 patients]; hazard ratio for death, 1.73; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.06 to 2.82; P = 0.03). The excess deaths associated with earlier ART initiation occurred 2 to 5 weeks after diagnosis (P = 0.007 for the comparison between groups); mortality was similar in the two groups thereafter. Among patients with few white cells in their cerebrospinal fluid (<5 per cubic millimeter) at randomization, mortality was particularly elevated with earlier ART as compared with deferred ART (hazard ratio, 3.87; 95% CI, 1.41 to 10.58; P = 0.008). The incidence of recognized cryptococcal immune reconstitution inflammatory syndrome did not differ significantly between the earlier-ART group and the deferred-ART group (20% and 13%, respectively; P = 0.32). All other clinical, immunologic, virologic, and microbiologic outcomes, as well as adverse events, were similar between the groups.
Deferring ART for 5 weeks after the diagnosis of cryptococcal meningitis was associated with significantly improved survival, as compared with initiating ART at 1 to 2 weeks, especially among patients with a paucity of white cells in cerebrospinal fluid. (Funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and others; COAT number, NCT01075152.)
PMCID: PMC4127879  PMID: 24963568
10.  Determinants of Mortality in a Combined Cohort of 501 Patients With HIV-Associated Cryptococcal Meningitis: Implications for Improving Outcomes 
Cerebrospinal fluid fungal burden, altered mental status, and rate of clearance of infection predict acute mortality in HIV-associated cryptococcal meningitis. The identification of factors associated with mortality informs strategies to improve outcomes.
Background. Cryptococcal meningitis (CM) is a leading cause of death in individuals infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Identifying factors associated with mortality informs strategies to improve outcomes.
Methods. Five hundred one patients with HIV-associated CM were followed prospectively for 10 weeks during trials in Thailand, Uganda, Malawi, and South Africa. South African patients (n = 266) were followed for 1 year. Similar inclusion/exclusion criteria were applied at all sites. Logistic regression identified baseline variables independently associated with mortality.
Results. Mortality was 17% at 2 weeks and 34% at 10 weeks. Altered mental status (odds ratio [OR], 3.1; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.7–5.9), high cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) fungal burden (OR, 1.4 per log10 colony-forming units/mL increase; 95% CI, 1.0–1.8), older age (>50 years; OR, 3.9; 95% CI, 1.4–11.1), high peripheral white blood cell count (>10 × 109 cells/L; OR, 8.7; 95% CI, 2.5–30.2), fluconazole-based induction treatment, and slow clearance of CSF infection were independently associated with 2-week mortality. Low body weight, anemia (hemoglobin <7.5 g/dL), and low CSF opening pressure were independently associated with mortality at 10 weeks in addition to altered mental status, high fungal burden, high peripheral white cell count, and older age.
In those followed for 1 year, overall mortality was 41%. Immune reconstitution inflammatory syndrome occurred in 13% of patients and was associated with 2-week CSF fungal burden (P = .007), but not with time to initiation of antiretroviral therapy (ART).
Conclusions. CSF fungal burden, altered mental status, and rate of clearance of infection predict acute mortality in HIV-associated CM. The results suggest that earlier diagnosis, more rapidly fungicidal amphotericin-based regimens, and prompt immune reconstitution with ART are priorities for improving outcomes.
PMCID: PMC3922213  PMID: 24319084
cryptococcal meningitis; Cryptococcus neoformans; HIV; antiretroviral therapy; mortality (determinants)
11.  Symptomatic relapse of HIV-associated cryptococcal meningitis in South Africa: the role of inadequate secondary prophylaxis 
Cryptococcal meningitis is the commonest cause of adult meningitis in Southern Africa. A sizeable proportion of this disease burden is thought to be due to symptomatic relapse of previously treated infection. We carried out a study to examine the contribution of inadequate secondary fluconazole prophylaxis to symptomatic relapses of cryptococcal meningitis.
A prospective observational study.
GF Jooste Hospital, a public sector adult referral hospital in Cape Town.
Patients presenting with laboratory confirmed symptomatic relapse of HIV-associated cryptococcal meningitis between January 2007 and December 2008.
Outcome measures
Relapse episodes were categorized into 1) patients not taking fluconazole prophylaxis, 2) immune reconstitution inflammatory syndrome (IRIS) and 3) relapses occurring prior to ART in patients taking fluconazole. In-hospital mortality was recorded.
There were 69 relapse episodes, accounting for 23% of all cases of cryptococcal meningitis. 43%(n=30) of relapse episodes were in patients not taking fluconazole prophylaxis, 45%(31) were due to IRIS and 12%(8) were in patients pre-ART taking fluconazole. Patients developing relapse due to inadequate secondary prophylaxis had severe disease and high in-hospital mortality (33%). Of the 30 patients not taking fluconazole, 47% (14) had not been prescribed secondary prophylaxis by their healthcare providers. Importantly, we documented no relapses due to fluconazole resistance in this cohort of patients who has received amphotericin B as initial therapy.
Large numbers of relapses of cryptococcal meningitis are due to failed prescription, dispensing, referral for or adherence to secondary fluconazole prophylaxis. Interventions to improve the use of secondary fluconazole prophylaxis are essential.
PMCID: PMC2880446  PMID: 20526411
12.  Monitoring and impact of fluconazole serum and cerebrospinal fluid concentration in HIV-associated cryptococcal meningitis-infected patients 
HIV medicine  2009;11(4):276-281.
The aim of the present study was to assess fluconazole pharmacokinetic measures in serum and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF); and the correlation of these measures with clinical outcomes of invasive fungal infections.
A randomized trial was conducted in HIV-infected patients receiving 3 different regimens of fluconazole plus amphotericin B (AmB) for the treatment of cryptococcal meningitis. Regimens included fluconazole 400 mg/day+AmB (AmB+Fluc400) or fluconazole 800 mg/day+AmB (AmB+Fluc800) (14 days followed by fluconazole alone at the randomized dose for 56 days); or AmB alone for 14 days followed by fluconazole 400 mg/day for 56 days. Serum (at 24 hours after dosing) and CSF samples were taken at Baseline and days 14 and 70 (serum only) for fluconazole measurement, using gas-liquid chromatography.
Sixty-four treated patients had fluconazole measurements; 11 in AmB group, 12 in AmB+Fluc400 group and 41 in AmB+Fluc800 group. Day 14 serum concentration geometric means were 24.7 mg/L for AmB+Fluc400 and 37.0 mg/L for AmB+Fluc800. Correspondingly, CSF concentration geometric means were 25.1 mg/L and 32.7 mg/L. Day 14 Serum and CSF concentrations were highly correlated for AmB+Fluc800 (p<0.001, r=0.873) and for AmB+Fluc400 (p=0.005, r=0.943). Increased Serum AUC appears associated with decreased mortality at day 70 (p=0.061, odds-ratio=2.19) as well as with increased study composite endpoint success at Days 42 and 70 (p=0.081, odds-ratio=2.25 and 0.058, 4.08; respectively).
High fluconazole dosage (800 mg/day) for the treatment of HIV-associated cryptococcal meningitis was associated with high serum and CSF fluconazole concentration. Overall, high serum and CSF concentration appear associated with increased survival and primary composite endpoint success.
PMCID: PMC3418324  PMID: 20002501
13.  Pharmacokinetics and Pharmacodynamics of Fluconazole for Cryptococcal Meningoencephalitis: Implications for Antifungal Therapy and In Vitro Susceptibility Breakpoints 
Fluconazole is frequently the only antifungal agent that is available for induction therapy for cryptococcal meningitis. There is relatively little understanding of the pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics (PK-PD) of fluconazole in this setting. PK-PD relationships were estimated with 4 clinical isolates of Cryptococcus neoformans. MICs were determined using Clinical and Laboratory Standards Institute (CLSI) methodology. A nonimmunosuppressed murine model of cryptococcal meningitis was used. Mice received two different doses of fluconazole (125 mg/kg of body weight/day and 250 mg/kg of body weight/day) orally for 9 days; a control group of mice was not given fluconazole. Fluconazole concentrations in plasma and in the cerebrum were determined using high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC). The cryptococcal density in the brain was estimated using quantitative cultures. A mathematical model was fitted to the PK-PD data. The experimental results were extrapolated to humans (bridging study). The PK were linear. A dose-dependent decline in fungal burden was observed, with near-maximal activity evident with dosages of 250 mg/kg/day. The MIC was important for understanding the exposure-response relationships. The mean AUC/MIC ratio associated with stasis was 389. The results of the bridging study suggested that only 66.7% of patients receiving 1,200 mg/kg would achieve or exceed an AUC/MIC ratio of 389. The potential breakpoints for fluconazole against Cryptococcus neoformans follow: susceptible, ≤2 mg/liter; resistant, >2 mg/liter. Fluconazole may be an inferior agent for induction therapy because many patients cannot achieve the pharmacodynamic target. Clinical breakpoints are likely to be significantly lower than epidemiological cutoff values. The MIC may guide the appropriate use of fluconazole. If fluconazole is the only option for induction therapy, then the highest possible dose should be used.
PMCID: PMC3716186  PMID: 23571544
14.  A Prospective Study of Mortality from Cryptococcal Meningitis following Treatment Induction with 1200mg Oral Fluconazole in Blantyre, Malawi 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(11):e110285.
We have previously reported high ten-week mortality from cryptococcal meningitis in Malawian adults following treatment-induction with 800mg oral fluconazole (57% [33/58]). National guidelines in Malawi and other African countries now advocate an increased induction dose of 1200mg. We assessed whether this has improved outcomes.
This was a prospective observational study of HIV-infected adults with cryptococcal meningitis confirmed by diagnostic lumbar puncture. Treatment was with fluconazole 1200mg/day for two weeks then 400mg/day for 8 weeks. Mortality within the first 10 weeks was the study end-point, and current results were compared with data from our prior patient cohort who started on fluconazole 800mg/day.
47 participants received fluconazole monotherapy. Despite a treatment-induction dose of 1200mg, ten-week mortality remained 55% (26/47). This was no better than our previous study (Hazard Ratio [HR] of death on 1200mg vs. 800mg fluconazole: 1.29 (95% CI: 0.77–2.16, p = 0.332)). There was some evidence for improved survival in patients who had repeat lumbar punctures during early therapy to lower intracranial pressure (HR: 0.27 [95% CI: 0.07–1.03, p = 0.055]).
There remains an urgent need to identify more effective, affordable and deliverable regimens for cryptococcal meningitis.
PMCID: PMC4222805  PMID: 25375145
15.  Cross-species discovery of syncretic drug combinations that potentiate the antifungal fluconazole 
The authors screen for compounds that show synergistic antifungal activity when combined with the widely-used fungistatic drug fluconazole. Chemogenomic profiling explains the mode of action of synergistic drugs and allows the prediction of additional drug synergies.
The authors screen for compounds that show synergistic antifungal activity when combined with the widely-used fungistatic drug fluconazole. Chemogenomic profiling explains the mode of action of synergistic drugs and allows the prediction of additional drug synergies.
Chemical screens with a library enriched for known drugs identified a diverse set of 148 compounds that potentiated the action of the antifungal drug fluconazole against the fungal pathogens Cryptococcus neoformans, Cryptococcus gattii and Candida albicans, and the model yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, often in a species-specific manner.Chemogenomic profiles of six confirmed hits in S. cerevisiae revealed different modes of action and enabled the prediction of additional synergistic combinations; three-way synergistic interactions exhibited even stronger synergies at low doses of fluconazole.The synergistic combination of fluconazole and the antidepressant sertraline was active against fluconazole-resistant clinical fungal isolates and in an in vivo model of Cryptococcal infection.
Rising fungal infection rates, especially among immune-suppressed individuals, represent a serious clinical challenge (Gullo, 2009). Cancer, organ transplant and HIV patients, for example, often succumb to opportunistic fungal pathogens. The limited repertoire of approved antifungal agents and emerging drug resistance in the clinic further complicate the effective treatment of systemic fungal infections. At the molecular level, the paucity of fungal-specific essential targets arises from the conserved nature of cellular functions from yeast to humans, as well as from the fact that many essential yeast genes can confer viability at a fraction of wild-type dosage (Yan et al, 2009). Although only ∼1100 of the ∼6000 genes in yeast are essential, almost all genes become essential in specific genetic backgrounds in which another non-essential gene has been deleted or otherwise attenuated, an effect termed synthetic lethality (Tong et al, 2001). Genome-scale surveys suggest that over 200 000 binary synthetic lethal gene combinations dominate the yeast genetic landscape (Costanzo et al, 2010). The genetic buffering phenomenon is also manifest as a plethora of differential chemical–genetic interactions in the presence of sublethal doses of bioactive compounds (Hillenmeyer et al, 2008). These observations frame the difficulty of interdicting network functions in eukaryotic pathogens with single agent therapeutics. At the same time, however, this genetic network organization suggests that judicious combinations of small molecule inhibitors of both essential and non-essential targets may elicit additive or synergistic effects on cell growth (Sharom et al, 2004; Lehar et al, 2008). Unbiased screens for drugs that synergistically enhance a specific bioactive effect, but which are not themselves individually active—termed a syncretic combination—are one means to substantially elaborate chemical space (Keith et al, 2005). Indeed, compounds that enhance the activity of known agents in model yeast and cancer cell line systems have been identified both by focused small molecule library screens and by computational methods (Borisy et al, 2003; Lehar et al, 2007; Nelander et al, 2008; Jansen et al, 2009; Zinner et al, 2009).
To extend the stratagem of chemical synthetic lethality to clinically relevant fungal pathogens, we screened a bioactive library of known drugs for synergistic enhancers of the widely used fungistatic drug fluconazole against the clinically relevant pathogens C. albicans, C. neoformans and C. gattii, as well as the genetically tractable budding yeast S. cerevisiae. Fluconazole is an azole drug that inhibits lanosterol 14α-demethylase, the gene product of ERG11, an essential cytochrome P450 enzyme in the ergosterol biosynthetic pathway (Groll et al, 1998). We identified 148 drugs that potentiate the antifungal action of fluconazole against the four species. These syncretic compounds had not been previously recognized in the clinic as antifungal agents, and many acted in a species-specific manner, often in a potent fungicidal manner.
To understand the mechanisms of synergism, we interrogated six syncretic drugs—trifluoperazine, tamoxifen, clomiphene, sertraline, suloctidil and L-cycloserine—in genome-wide chemogenomic profiles of the S. cerevisiae deletion strain collection (Giaever et al, 1999). These profiles revealed that membrane, vesicle trafficking and lipid biosynthesis pathways are targeted by five of the synergizers, whereas the sphingolipid biosynthesis pathway is targeted by L-cycloserine. Cell biological assays confirmed the predicted membrane disruption effects of the former group of compounds, which may perturb ergosterol metabolism, impair fluconazole export by drug efflux pumps and/or affect active import of fluconazole (Kuo et al, 2010; Mansfield et al, 2010). Based on the integration of chemical–genetic and genetic interaction space, a signature set of deletion strains that are sensitive to the membrane active synergizers correctly predicted additional drug synergies with fluconazole. Similarly, the L-cycloserine chemogenomic profile correctly predicted a synergistic interaction between fluconazole and myriocin, another inhibitor of sphingolipid biosynthesis. The structure of genetic networks suggests that it should be possible to devise higher order drug combinations with even greater selectivity and potency (Sharom et al, 2004). In an initial test of this concept, we found that the combination of a non-synergistic pair drawn from the membrane active and sphingolipid target classes exhibited potent three-way synergism with a low dose of fluconazole. Finally, the combination of sertraline and fluconazole was active in a G. mellonella model of Cryptococcal infection, and was also efficacious against fluconazole-resistant clinical isolates of C. albicans and C. glabrata.
Collectively, these results demonstrate that the combinatorial redeployment of known drugs defines a powerful antifungal strategy and establish a number of potential lead combinations for future clinical assessment.
Resistance to widely used fungistatic drugs, particularly to the ergosterol biosynthesis inhibitor fluconazole, threatens millions of immunocompromised patients susceptible to invasive fungal infections. The dense network structure of synthetic lethal genetic interactions in yeast suggests that combinatorial network inhibition may afford increased drug efficacy and specificity. We carried out systematic screens with a bioactive library enriched for off-patent drugs to identify compounds that potentiate fluconazole action in pathogenic Candida and Cryptococcus strains and the model yeast Saccharomyces. Many compounds exhibited species- or genus-specific synergism, and often improved fluconazole from fungistatic to fungicidal activity. Mode of action studies revealed two classes of synergistic compound, which either perturbed membrane permeability or inhibited sphingolipid biosynthesis. Synergistic drug interactions were rationalized by global genetic interaction networks and, notably, higher order drug combinations further potentiated the activity of fluconazole. Synergistic combinations were active against fluconazole-resistant clinical isolates and an in vivo model of Cryptococcus infection. The systematic repurposing of approved drugs against a spectrum of pathogens thus identifies network vulnerabilities that may be exploited to increase the activity and repertoire of antifungal agents.
PMCID: PMC3159983  PMID: 21694716
antifungal; combination; pathogen; resistance; synergism
16.  A Prospective Longitudinal Study of the Clinical Outcomes from Cryptococcal Meningitis following Treatment Induction with 800 mg Oral Fluconazole in Blantyre, Malawi 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e67311.
Cryptococcal meningitis is the most common neurological infection in HIV infected patients in Sub Saharan Africa, where gold standard treatment with intravenous amphotericin B and 5 flucytosine is often unavailable or difficult to administer. Fluconazole monotherapy is frequently recommended in national guidelines but is a fungistatic drug compromised by uncertainty over optimal dosing and a paucity of clinical end-point outcome data.
From July 2010 until March 2011, HIV infected adults with a first episode of cryptococcal meningitis were recruited at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital, Blantyre, Malawi. Patients were treated with oral fluconazole monotherapy 800 mg daily, as per national guidelines. ART was started at 4 weeks. Outcomes and factors associated with treatment failure were assessed 4, 10 and 52 weeks after fluconazole initiation.
Sixty patients were recruited. 26/60 (43%) died by 4 weeks. 35/60 (58.0%) and 43/56 (77%) died or failed treatment by 10 or 52 weeks respectively. Reduced consciousness (Glasgow Coma Score <14 of 15), moderate/severe neurological disability (modified Rankin Score >3 of 5) and confusion (Abbreviated Mental Test Score <8 of 10) were all common at baseline and associated with death or treatment failure. ART prior to recruitment was not associated with better outcomes.
Mortality and treatment failure from cryptococcal meningitis following initiation of treatment with 800 mg oral fluconazole is unacceptably high. To improve outcomes, there is an urgent need for better therapeutic strategies and point-of-care diagnostics, allowing earlier diagnosis before development of neurological deficit.
PMCID: PMC3696104  PMID: 23840659
17.  In vitro evaluation of combination of fluconazole and flucytosine against Cryptococcus neoformans var. neoformans. 
Amphotericin B and fluconazole are current acceptable therapies for cryptococcal meningitis; however, their effect remains suboptimal. The combination of fluconazole and flucytosine has yielded encouraging clinical results in human immunodeficiency virus patients with cryptococcal meningitis. To investigate the biological basis of this finding, we performed in vitro combination testing of fluconazole and flucytosine against 50 clinical strains of Cryptococcus neoformans var. neoformans. Synergy (fractional inhibitory concentration index of < 1.0) was observed in 62% of cases, while antagonism (fractional inhibitory concentration index of > 2.0) was not observed. For cases in which synergy was not achieved (autonomous or additive effects), the beneficial effect of the combination was still seen (i.e., there was still a decrease, although not as dramatic, in the MIC of one or both drugs when used in combination). The in vitro inhibitory action of flucytosine was greatly enhanced by the addition of fluconazole; the flucytosine MICs for Cryptococcus isolates were markedly decreased to concentrations which were severalfold lower than the achievable cerebrospinal fluid flucytosine concentration. On the other hand, the addition of flucytosine did not greatly enhance the in vitro activity of fluconazole if the initial fluconazole MIC for the isolate was > or = 8 micrograms/ml. Controlled clinical studies are warranted to further elucidate the potential utility of fluconazole-flucytosine combination therapy.
PMCID: PMC162809  PMID: 7486902
18.  Screening for Cryptococcal Antigenemia in Anti-Retroviral Naïve AIDS Patients in Benin City, Nigeria 
Oman Medical Journal  2012;27(3):228-231.
Cryptococcus neoformans is the most incriminated fungal pathogen causing meningitis in acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) patients, and is known to constitute a major cause of deaths in AIDS patients. This study thus aimed to determine the baseline sero-prevalence of Cryptococcus neoformans infection in anti-retroviral naïve (ART-naïve) AIDS patients using the serum Cryptococcal antigen (crag) detection method. Baseline effect of variation in CD4 counts, as well as sex and age with sero-positivity for crag were also determined.
This descriptive cross-sectional study included 150 (61 males and 89 females) ART-naïve AIDS patients attending the Human Immunodeficiency Virus clinic (HIV) at the University of Benin Teaching hospital, Benin City, Nigeria, within the period from February 2011- July 2011. Forty (18 males and 22 females) HIV positive outpatients with CD4 counts >200 cells/µl who were ART-naive were recruited and used as controls. The sero-prevalence of crag in the patients and the control group was measured using the cryptococcal antigen latex agglutination system (CALAS) (Meridian Bioscience, Europe) and CD4 counts were measured using flow cytometry (Partec flow cytometer, Germany).
Of the 150 ART-naïve AIDS patients with CD4 counts ≤200 cells/µL; 19 (12.7%) were positive for serum Cryptococcal antigen. ART-naïve AIDS patients with CD4 count ≤50 cells/µl had the highest prevalence of serum crag. Lower CD4 counts were significantly associated with positivity for serum crag (p<0.001). Age and sex had no significant effect on the sero-positivity for serum crag. One (2.5%) of the controls was sero-positive for crag. Thus, serum crag was significantly associated with AIDS but not with HIV (p<0.001).
This study uncovers a high prevalence of crag in ART- naïve AIDS patients in Benin City. The prevalence of crag was higher in ART-naïve AIDS patients with lower CD4 counts. There is an urgent need to introduce routine screening for crag in ART- naïve AIDS patients in our locality to reduce the rapid mortality from Cryptococcal meningitis which accounts for a majority of the morbidity factor if undiagnosed during ART therapy.
PMCID: PMC3394362  PMID: 22811773
Cryptococcal antigen; ART-naïve AIDS patients; Sero-prevalence; CD4 T cell counts
19.  Cryptococcal Meningitis in Patients with or without Human Immunodeficiency Virus: Experience in a Tertiary Hospital 
Yonsei Medical Journal  2011;52(3):482-487.
Cryptococcal meningitis is a relatively common opportunistic infection in human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) patients and it can frequently occur in immunocompetent hosts without any apparent underlying disease. Nevertheless, little is known about cyptococcal meningitis in the Korean population. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the clinical features and initial laboratory findings of cryptococcal meningitis in patients with and without HIV at a tertiary care teaching hospital.
Materials and Methods
We performed a retrospective study at a tertiary care teaching hospital from January 2001 to December 2009. Eleven HIV positive patients and nine HIV negative patients were included.
The most common symptoms were headache and fever in cryptococcal meningitis, and diabetic mellitus, end stage renal disease and liver cirrhosis were the main associated conditions in patients without HIV. Patients with HIV showed lower peripheral CD4+ cell counts (median: 9, range: 1-107) and a higher burden of cryptococcus than patients without HIV. There were no statistically significant differences in serum CRP level and other cerebrospinal fluid parameters between patients with HIV and without HIV. The in-hospital mortality was 10%, and recurrence of cyptococcal meningitis was observed in 3 patients with HIV and this occurred within 5 months of the first episode.
Cryptococcal meningitis is fatal without treatment, therefore, rapid recognition of symptoms such as fever and headache and diagnosis is required to decrease the mortality. Recurrence of meningitis after treatment should carefully be followed up, especially in advanced HIV patients.
PMCID: PMC3101056  PMID: 21488192
Cryptococcal meningitis; HIV; neurologic symptom
20.  Very Low Levels of 25-Hydroxyvitamin D Are Not Associated With Immunologic Changes or Clinical Outcome in South African Patients With HIV-Associated Cryptococcal Meningitis 
Vitamin D deficiency may increase susceptibility to opportunistic infections in HIV-infected individuals. We found no evidence that vitamin D deficiency increases risk of cryptococcal meningitis or leads to impaired immune responses or microbiological clearance in HIV-infected patients with cryptococcal meningitis.
Background. Vitamin D deficiency is associated with impaired immune responses and increased susceptibility to a number of intracellular pathogens in individuals infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). It is not known whether such an association exists with Cryptococcus neoformans.
Methods. Levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25[OH]D) were measured in 150 patients with cryptococcal meningitis (CM) and 150 HIV-infected controls in Cape Town, South Africa, and associations between vitamin D deficiency and CM were examined. The 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels and cryptococcal notifications were analyzed for evidence of reciprocal seasonality. Associations between 25(OH)D levels and disease severity, immune responses, and microbiological clearance were investigated in the patients with CM.
Results. Vitamin D deficiency (plasma 25[OH]D ≤50 nmol/L) was present in 74% of patients. Vitamin D deficiency was not associated with CM (adjusted odds ratio, 0.93 [95% confidence interval, .6–1.6]; P = .796). Levels of 25(OH)D showed marked seasonality, but no reciprocal seasonality was seen in CM notifications. No significant associations were found between 25(OH)D levels and fungal burden or levels of tumor necrosis factor α, interferon γ, interleukin 6, soluble CD14, or neopterin in cerebrospinal fluid. Rates of fungal clearance did not vary according to vitamin D status.
Conclusions. Vitamin D deficiency does not predispose to the development of CM, or lead to impaired immune responses or microbiological clearance in HIV-infected patients with CM.
PMCID: PMC4111915  PMID: 24825871
HIV; cryptococcal meningitis; vitamin D; tuberculosis; South Africa
21.  Prevalence and factors associated with cryptococcal antigenemia among severely immunosuppressed HIV-infected adults in Uganda: a cross-sectional study 
Cryptococcal infection is a common opportunistic infection among severely immunosuppressed HIV patients and is associated with high mortality. Positive cryptococcal antigenemia is an independent predictor of cryptococcal meningitis and death in patients with severe immunosuppression. We evaluated the prevalence and factors associated with cryptococcal antigenemia among patients with CD4 counts of 100 cells/mm3 or less in Mulago Hospital, Kampala, Uganda. Screening of a targeted group of HIV patients may enable early detection of cryptococcal infection and intervention before initiating antiretroviral therapy. Factors associated with cryptococcal antigenemia may be used subsequently in resource-limited settings in screening for cryptococcal infection, and this data may also inform policy for HIV care.
In this cross-sectional study, HIV-infected patients aged 18 years and older with CD4 counts of up to 100 cells/mm3 were enrolled between December 2009 and March 2010. Data on socio-demographics, physical examinations and laboratory tests were collected. Factors associated with cryptococcal antigenemia were analyzed using multiple logistic regression.
We enrolled 367 participants and the median CD4 count was 23 (IQR 9-51) cells/mm3. Sixty-nine (19%) of the 367 participants had cryptococcal antigenemia. Twenty-four patients (6.5%) had cryptococcal meningitis on cerebrospinal fluid analysis and three had isolated cryptococcal antigenemia. Factors associated with cryptococcal antigenemia included: low body mass index of 15.4 kg/m2 or less (adjusted odds ratio, AOR = 0.5; 95% CI 0.3-1.0), a CD4+ T cell count of less than 50 cells/mm3 (AOR = 2.7; 95% CI1.2-6.1), neck pain (AOR = 2.3; 95% CI 1.2-4.6), recent diagnosis of HIV infection (AOR = 1.9; 95% CI 1.1-3.6), and meningeal signs (AOR = 7.9; 95% CI 2.9-22.1). However, at sub-analysis of asymptomatic patients, absence of neck pain (AOR = 0.5), photophobia (AOR = 0.5) and meningeal signs (AOR = 0.1) were protective against cryptococcal infection.
Cryptococcal antigenemia is common among severely immunosuppressed HIV patients in Mulago Hospital, Kampala, Uganda. Independent predictors of positive serum cryptococcal antigenemia were CD4+ T cell counts of less than 50 cells/mm, low body mass index, neck pain, signs of meningeal irritation, and a recent diagnosis of HIV infection. Routine screening of this category of patients may detect cryptococcosis, and hence provide an opportunity for early intervention. Absence of neck pain, photophobia and meningeal signs were protective against cryptococcal infection compared with symptomatic patients.
PMCID: PMC3334679  PMID: 22417404
22.  Treatment of Cryptococcal Meningitis in Resource Limited Settings 
Purpose of review
Cryptococcal meningitis most commonly occurs in advanced HIV. Although diminishing in the developed world with antiretroviral therapy (ART), it remains a major problem in resource-limited settings. ART roll-out will improve long-term HIV survival if opportunistic infections are effectively treated. Considering cryptococcal meningitis in that context, this review addresses excess morbidity and mortality in developing countries, treatment in areas of limited drug availability and challenges posed by combined anti-cryptococcal and HIV therapy.
Recent Findings
From Early Fungicidal Activity (EFA) studies, Amphotericin B-flucytosine is best induction therapy but often unavailable; high dose Amphotericin B monotherapy may be feasible in some settings. Where fluconazole is the only option, higher doses are more fungicidal. Serum cryptococcal antigen testing may identify patients at highest disease risk and primary prophylaxis is effective; the clinical role of such interventions needs to be established. Timing of ART introduction remains controversial; early initiation risks Immune Reconstitution Disease (IRD), delays may increase mortality.
Amphotericin B based treatment is appropriate where possible. More studies are needed to optimise fluconazole monotherapy doses. Other research priorities include management of raised intracranial pressure, appropriate ART initiation and IRD treatment. Studies should focus on developing countries where problems are greatest.
PMCID: PMC3977571  PMID: 19587589
Cryptococcal meningitis; resource-limited setting; HIV; Antiretroviral therapy; Immune Reconstitution Disease
23.  The Phenotype of the Cryptococcus-Specific CD4+ Memory T-Cell Response Is Associated With Disease Severity and Outcome in HIV-Associated Cryptococcal Meningitis 
The Journal of Infectious Diseases  2013;207(12):1817-1828.
Background. Correlates of immune protection in patients with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)–associated cryptococcal meningitis are poorly defined. A clearer understanding of these immune responses is essential to inform rational development of immunotherapies.
Methods. Cryptococcal-specific peripheral CD4+ T-cell responses were measured in 44 patients with HIV-associated cryptococcal meningitis at baseline and during follow-up. Responses were assessed following ex vivo cryptococcal mannoprotein stimulation, using 13-color flow-cytometry. The relationships between cryptococcal-specific CD4+ T-cell responses, clinical parameters at presentation, and outcome were investigated.
Results. Cryptococcal-specific CD4+ T-cell responses were characterized by the production of macrophage inflammatory protein 1α, interferon γ (IFN-γ), and tumor necrosis factor α (TNF-α). Conversely, minimal interleukin 4 and interleukin 17 production was detected. Patients surviving to 2 weeks had significantly different functional CD4+ T-cell responses as compared to those who died. Patients with a response predominantly consisting of IFN-γ or TNF-α production had a 2-week mortality of 0% (0/20), compared with 25% (6/24) in those without this response (P = .025). Such patients also had lower fungal burdens (10 400 vs 390 000 colony-forming units/mL; P < .001), higher cerebrospinal fluid lymphocyte counts (122 vs 8 cells/μL; P < .001), and a trend toward faster rates of clearance of infection.
Conclusions. The phenotype of the peripheral CD4+ T-cell response to Cryptococcus was associated with disease severity and outcome in HIV-associated cryptococcal meningitis. IFN-γ/TNF-α–predominant responses were associated with survival.
PMCID: PMC3654748  PMID: 23493728
HIV; cryptococcus neoformans; TB; CMV; memory T cells; flow cytometry
24.  Effect of Fluconazole on Indinavir Pharmacokinetics in Human Immunodeficiency Virus-Infected Patients 
To evaluate a potential pharmacokinetic interaction of coadministration of fluconazole, and indinavir, a human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) protease inhibitor, 13 patients were enrolled in a multiple-dose, three-period, placebo-controlled, crossover study. Patients were randomly assigned to receive indinavir at 1,000 mg every 8 h for 7\documentclass[12pt]{minimal} \usepackage{amsmath} \usepackage{wasysym} \usepackage{amsfonts} \usepackage{amssymb} \usepackage{amsbsy} \usepackage{mathrsfs} \setlength{\oddsidemargin}{-69pt} \begin{document} \begin{equation*}\frac{1}{3}\end{equation*}\end{document} days (with fluconazole placebo), fluconazole at 400 mg once daily for 8 days (with indinavir placebo), and indinavir with fluconazole in combination. The pharmacokinetics of both drugs were measured on day 8 of each treatment period. The peak concentration in plasma (Cmax) and the time to reach Cmax were obtained by inspection, and the area under curve (AUC) was calculated for indinavir and fluconazole for each treatment period in which the respective drugs were administered. There was a marginally (P = 0.08) statistically significant decrease in the AUC from 0 to 8 h (AUC0–8) for indinavir when it was administered with fluconazole. However, the magnitudes of the decreases in Cmax and the concentration at 8 h postdosing (C8) were not as great as the decrease in AUC0–8. Although the 90% confidence interval for the geometric mean ratio was within the hypothesized limits, the clinical significance is not clear. Indinavir coadministration with fluconazole had no statistically (P > 0.5) or clinically significant effect on the Cmax and C8 of indinavir. Fluconazole coadministration with indinavir had no statistically or clinically significant effect on the pharmacokinetics of fluconazole. One patient was discontinued because of mild to moderate abdominal pain and diarrhea while on indinavir and fluconazole in combination. No serious adverse experience according to the results of laboratory tests was noted. Total bilirubin levels in serum were mildly increased in most patients treated with indinavir. This was not clinically significant and was not affected by the coadministration of fluconazole. Although the values of the pharmacokinetic parameters for indinavir decrease in the presence of fluconazole, indinavir and fluconazole can be administered concomitantly to HIV-infected patients without adjustment of the dose of either drug, and both drugs are generally well tolerated.
PMCID: PMC105391  PMID: 9527763
25.  Profile and mortality outcome of patients admitted with cryptococcal meningitis to an urban district hospital in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa 
Journal of the International AIDS Society  2014;17(4Suppl 3):19623.
Cryptococcal meningitis (CCM) is one of the leading causes of early mortality among HIV-infected patients. This study was a part of clinical audit [1] aimed at improving care for patients with CCM at an urban district hospital in South Africa.
Clinical records of all patients (age>13 years) admitted to the hospital with a diagnosis of CCM (based on a positive India ink, positive cryptococcal latex agglutination test (CLAT) or a positive culture of Cryptococcus neoformans) between June 2011 and December 2012 were retrospectively reviewed. Descriptive statistics and Chi-square analysis were generated with Epi Info 95% confidence intervals were reported where appropriate.
Of the 127 patients admitted with CCM, only 97 (76.4%) knew their HIV status. Only 44.8% (43/96) of those who knew they were HIV positive were on antiretroviral therapy (ART). Seventeen out of 25 patients (68%) previously treated for CCM had defaulted fluconazole and only 60% (15/25) were on ART. Acute mortality (death within 14 days of CCM diagnosis) was 55.9% (71/127). The median time to death from diagnosis was four days (IQR 2–9). The association between CSF WBC count<20cells/mL and increased risk of death within 14 days was statistically significant (OR 2.2; 95% CI 1.1–4.6, p=0.03). Patients with heavy cryptococcal burden (reported as numerous yeasts seen on microscopy) at diagnosis were three times more likely to die within 14 days of diagnosis of CCM (OR 3.2; 95% CI 0.9–10.7, p=0.06). Even though a CD4 count<100cells/mm3 was associated with a 1.6 times increased acute mortality risk, the association was not statistically significant (OR 1.6; 95% CI 0.6–4.6, p=0.3). The role of elevated CSF opening pressure at diagnosis was not assessed because only two (1.6%) patients had their baseline opening pressure measured.
Acute CCM-related mortality remains high. The number of patients who do not know their HIV status, the number of HIV positive patients not on ART, the high level of non-adherence to fluconazole and the proportion of patients not on ART after at least one previous CCM episode all point to the need of developing comprehensive strategies aimed at encouraging HIV testing and improving patient's retention in HIV care and support.
PMCID: PMC4224838  PMID: 25394127

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