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1.  Cryptococcus gattii VGIII Isolates Causing Infections in HIV/AIDS Patients in Southern California: Identification of the Local Environmental Source as Arboreal 
PLoS Pathogens  2014;10(8):e1004285.
Ongoing Cryptococcus gattii outbreaks in the Western United States and Canada illustrate the impact of environmental reservoirs and both clonal and recombining propagation in driving emergence and expansion of microbial pathogens. C. gattii comprises four distinct molecular types: VGI, VGII, VGIII, and VGIV, with no evidence of nuclear genetic exchange, indicating these represent distinct species. C. gattii VGII isolates are causing the Pacific Northwest outbreak, whereas VGIII isolates frequently infect HIV/AIDS patients in Southern California. VGI, VGII, and VGIII have been isolated from patients and animals in the Western US, suggesting these molecular types occur in the environment. However, only two environmental isolates of C. gattii have ever been reported from California: CBS7750 (VGII) and WM161 (VGIII). The incongruence of frequent clinical presence and uncommon environmental isolation suggests an unknown C. gattii reservoir in California. Here we report frequent isolation of C. gattii VGIII MATα and MATa isolates and infrequent isolation of VGI MATα from environmental sources in Southern California. VGIII isolates were obtained from soil debris associated with tree species not previously reported as hosts from sites near residences of infected patients. These isolates are fertile under laboratory conditions, produce abundant spores, and are part of both locally and more distantly recombining populations. MLST and whole genome sequence analysis provide compelling evidence that these environmental isolates are the source of human infections. Isolates displayed wide-ranging virulence in macrophage and animal models. When clinical and environmental isolates with indistinguishable MLST profiles were compared, environmental isolates were less virulent. Taken together, our studies reveal an environmental source and risk of C. gattii to HIV/AIDS patients with implications for the >1,000,000 cryptococcal infections occurring annually for which the causative isolate is rarely assigned species status. Thus, the C. gattii global health burden could be more substantial than currently appreciated.
Author Summary
The environmentally-acquired human pathogen C. gattii is responsible for ongoing and expanding outbreaks in the Western United States and Canada. C. gattii comprises four distinct molecular types: VGI, VGII, VGIII, and VGIV. Molecular types VGI, VGII, and VGIII have been isolated from patients and animals throughout the Western US. The Pacific Northwest and Canadian outbreak is primarily caused by C. gattii VGII. VGIII is responsible for ongoing infections in HIV/AIDS patients in Southern California. However, only two environmental C. gattii isolates have ever been identified from the Californian environment: CBS7750 (VGII) and WM161 (VGIII). We sought to collect environmental samples from areas that had confirmed reports of clinical or veterinary infections. Here we report the isolation of C. gattii VGI and VGIII from environmental soil and tree samples. C. gattii isolates were obtained from three novel tree species: Canary Island pine, American sweetgum, and a Pohutukawa tree. Genetic analysis provides robust evidence that these environmental isolates are the source of human infections.
PMCID: PMC4140843  PMID: 25144534
2.  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
3.  Minimum information about a marker gene sequence (MIMARKS) and minimum information about any (x) sequence (MIxS) specifications 
Yilmaz, Pelin | Kottmann, Renzo | Field, Dawn | Knight, Rob | Cole, James R | Amaral-Zettler, Linda | Gilbert, Jack A | Karsch-Mizrachi, Ilene | Johnston, Anjanette | Cochrane, Guy | Vaughan, Robert | Hunter, Christopher | Park, Joonhong | Morrison, Norman | Rocca-Serra, Philippe | Sterk, Peter | Arumugam, Manimozhiyan | Bailey, Mark | Baumgartner, Laura | Birren, Bruce W | Blaser, Martin J | Bonazzi, Vivien | Booth, Tim | Bork, Peer | Bushman, Frederic D | Buttigieg, Pier Luigi | Chain, Patrick S G | Charlson, Emily | Costello, Elizabeth K | Huot-Creasy, Heather | Dawyndt, Peter | DeSantis, Todd | Fierer, Noah | Fuhrman, Jed A | Gallery, Rachel E | Gevers, Dirk | Gibbs, Richard A | Gil, Inigo San | Gonzalez, Antonio | Gordon, Jeffrey I | Guralnick, Robert | Hankeln, Wolfgang | Highlander, Sarah | Hugenholtz, Philip | Jansson, Janet | Kau, Andrew L | Kelley, Scott T | Kennedy, Jerry | Knights, Dan | Koren, Omry | Kuczynski, Justin | Kyrpides, Nikos | Larsen, Robert | Lauber, Christian L | Legg, Teresa | Ley, Ruth E | Lozupone, Catherine A | Ludwig, Wolfgang | Lyons, Donna | Maguire, Eamonn | Methé, Barbara A | Meyer, Folker | Muegge, Brian | Nakielny, Sara | Nelson, Karen E | Nemergut, Diana | Neufeld, Josh D | Newbold, Lindsay K | Oliver, Anna E | Pace, Norman R | Palanisamy, Giriprakash | Peplies, Jörg | Petrosino, Joseph | Proctor, Lita | Pruesse, Elmar | Quast, Christian | Raes, Jeroen | Ratnasingham, Sujeevan | Ravel, Jacques | Relman, David A | Assunta-Sansone, Susanna | Schloss, Patrick D | Schriml, Lynn | Sinha, Rohini | Smith, Michelle I | Sodergren, Erica | Spor, Aymé | Stombaugh, Jesse | Tiedje, James M | Ward, Doyle V | Weinstock, George M | Wendel, Doug | White, Owen | Whiteley, Andrew | Wilke, Andreas | Wortman, Jennifer R | Yatsunenko, Tanya | Glöckner, Frank Oliver
Nature Biotechnology  2011;29(5):415-420.
Here we present a standard developed by the Genomic Standards Consortium (GSC) for reporting marker gene sequences—the minimum information about a marker gene sequence (MIMARKS). We also introduce a system for describing the environment from which a biological sample originates. The ‘environmental packages’ apply to any genome sequence of known origin and can be used in combination with MIMARKS and other GSC checklists. Finally, to establish a unified standard for describing sequence data and to provide a single point of entry for the scientific community to access and learn about GSC checklists, we present the minimum information about any (x) sequence (MIxS). Adoption of MIxS will enhance our ability to analyze natural genetic diversity documented by massive DNA sequencing efforts from myriad ecosystems in our ever-changing biosphere.
PMCID: PMC3367316  PMID: 21552244
5.  Cryptococcus gattii in AIDS Patients, Southern California 
Emerging Infectious Diseases  2005;11(11):1686-1692.
A molecular analysis of pheromone genes showed a notable prevalence of Cryptococcus gattii isolates from AIDS patients in southern California.
Cryptococcus isolates from AIDS patients in southern California were characterized by molecular analyses. Pheromone MFα1 and MFa1 gene fragments were polymerase chain reaction–amplified with fluorescently labeled primers and analyzed by capillary electrophoresis (CE) on DNA analyzer. CE–fragment-length analyses (CE-FLAs) and CE–single-strand conformation polymorphisms (CE-SSCPs) were used to determine Cryptococcus gattii (Cg), C. neoformans (Cn) varieties neoformans (CnVN) and grubii (CnVG), mating types, and hybrids. Corroborative tests carried out in parallel included growth on specialized media and serotyping with a commercial kit. All 276 clinical strains tested as haploid MATα by CE-FLA. CE-SSCP analyses of MFα1 showed 219 (79.3%) CnVG, 23 (8.3%) CnVN, and 34 (12.3%) Cg isolates. CE-FLA and CE-SSCP are promising tools for high-throughput screening of Cryptococcus isolates. The high prevalence of Cg was noteworthy, in view of its sporadic reports from AIDS patients in North America and its recent emergence as a primary pathogen on Vancouver Island, Canada.
PMCID: PMC3367345  PMID: 16318719
Cryptococcus gattii; Cryptococcus neoformans varieties grubii and neoformans; pheromones; CE-FLA; CE-SSCP; southern California; AIDS; molecular methods; research
6.  Correspondence of In Vitro and In Vivo Fluconazole Dose-Response Curves for Cryptococcus neoformans 
We conducted in vitro experiments to evaluate the susceptibility of a clinical isolate of Cryptococcus neoformans to a wide range of concentrations of fluconazole. In vitro susceptibility was tested using broth macrodilution methods modified to provide a numeric count of viable organisms. The association between the quantitative in vitro response and fluconazole drug concentrations was estimated using local nonparametric regression. Regression analysis was used to assess the correspondence between the in vitro fluconazole concentration-response curve and the murine dose-response curve observed in our previously reported murine model. The regression model was then used to predict the murine response. There was a strong correspondence between in vitro measures of response to fluconazole alone and the previously reported biologic effects seen in the mouse. In vitro antifungal drug susceptibility testing can reliably predict the murine response to fluconazole.
PMCID: PMC1196263  PMID: 16048939
7.  Phase I Evaluation of the Safety and Pharmacokinetics of Murine-Derived Anticryptococcal Antibody 18B7 in Subjects with Treated Cryptococcal Meningitis 
A promising approach to improving outcomes in patients with cryptococcal meningitis is to use adjunctive passive immunotherapy with a monoclonal antibody (MAb) directed against the capsular polysaccharide of Cryptococcus neoformans. This is the first application of MAb therapy for the treatment of a fungal disease in humans. We determined the safety and maximum tolerated dose of the murine anticryptococcal MAb 18B7 in a phase I dose-escalation study. The subjects were human immunodeficiency virus-infected patients who had been successfully treated for cryptococcal meningitis. Six dosing cohorts received MAb 18B7 at 0.01 to 2 mg/kg of body weight as a single infusion. Three patients each received 0.01, 0.05, 0.2, and 0.5 mg of MAb 18B7 per kg without significant adverse events. Four of the subjects who received the 1-mg/kg dose had mild study drug-associated toxicity, including transient nausea, vomiting, back pain, and urticarial rash. Two of the subjects who received 2 mg/kg developed drug-associated mild to moderate nausea, vomiting, chills, and myalgias. One of the subjects who received 2 mg/kg developed intracranial hypertension 10 weeks after MAb 18B7 administration. Serum cryptococcal antigen titers in the cohorts receiving doses of 1 and 2 mg/kg declined by a median of twofold at 1 week and a median of threefold at 2 weeks postinfusion, but the titers subsequently returned toward the baseline values by week 12. The half-life of MAb 18B7 in serum was approximately 53 h, while the MAb was undetectable in the cerebrospinal fluid of all patients. These data support the continued investigation of MAb 18B7 at a maximum single dose of 1.0 mg/kg.
PMCID: PMC549259  PMID: 15728888
8.  Amphotericin B and Fluconazole, a Potent Combination Therapy for Cryptococcal Meningitis 
We evaluated the antifungal activities of amphotericin B, fluconazole, and flucytosine, alone and in combination, in a murine model of cryptococcal meningitis. The objectives were to determine the greatest antifungal effects achievable with these drugs alone or in combination. Meningitis was established in male BALB/c mice weighing 23 to 25 g by intracerebral injection of Cryptococcus neoformans. Treatment was started on day 2. Amphotericin B was tested at 0.3 to 1.3 mg/kg of body weight/day by slow intravenous injection. Fluconazole at 10 to 40 mg/kg/day and flucytosine at 20 to 105 mg/kg/day were administered in the sole source of drinking water. The mice were killed at 16 days, and the numbers of fungal colonies in the brain were quantified. The association between the response and the dose combination was evaluated by local nonparametric response surface methods; 99% confidence intervals were used to evaluate the antifungal effects. Ninety-five percent of the mice treated with amphotericin B at 0.5 mg/kg survived to the end of the experiment, regardless of the fluconazole or flucytosine dose used. The greatest activity was seen with amphotericin B plus fluconazole with or without flucytosine. However, the addition of flucytosine did not increase the antifungal activity. Given the widespread availability of amphotericin B and fluconazole and the relative safety profile of fluconazole compared to that of flucytosine, the full potential of this two-drug combination deserves further evaluation.
PMCID: PMC353060  PMID: 14982793
9.  Antifungal Susceptibility Survey of 2,000 Bloodstream Candida Isolates in the United States 
Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy  2003;47(10):3149-3154.
Candida bloodstream isolates (n = 2,000) from two multicenter clinical trials carried out by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Mycoses Study Group between 1995 and 1999 were tested against amphotericin B (AMB), flucytosine (5FC), fluconazole (FLU), itraconazole (ITR), voriconazole (VOR), posaconazole (POS), caspofungin (CFG), micafungin (MFG), and anidulafungin (AFG) using the NCCLS M27-A2 microdilution method. All drugs were tested in the NCCLS-specified RPMI 1640 medium except for AMB, which was tested in antibiotic medium 3. A sample of isolates was also tested in RPMI 1640 supplemented to 2% glucose and by using the diluent polyethylene glycol (PEG) in lieu of dimethyl sulfoxide for those drugs insoluble in water. Glucose supplementation tended to elevate the MIC, whereas using PEG tended to decrease the MIC. Trailing growth occurred frequently with azoles. Isolates were generally susceptible to AMB, 5FC, and FLU. Rates of resistance to ITR approached 20%. Although no established interpretative breakpoints are available for the candins (CFG, MFG, and AFG) and the new azoles (VOR and POS), they all exhibited excellent antifungal activity, even for those strains resistant to the other aforementioned agents.
PMCID: PMC201160  PMID: 14506023
10.  Addition of Caspofungin to Fluconazole Does Not Improve Outcome in Murine Candidiasis 
Caspofungin is a potent antifungal inhibiting glucan synthesis in Candida species. However, caspofungin is not 100% curative in candidiasis. Therefore, we evaluated combinations of fluconazole with caspofungin for murine candidemia. We could not show any benefit of combined therapy over individual antifungal drugs.
PMCID: PMC161841  PMID: 12821503
11.  Amphotericin B Colloidal Dispersion Combined with Flucytosine with or without Fluconazole for Treatment of Murine Cryptococcal Meningitis 
Studies with animals and in vitro studies have demonstrated that flucytosine plus amphotericin B or fluconazole has significantly improved mycologic activity against meningitis caused by Cryptococcus neoformans compared to the activity of amphotericin B or fluconazole used alone. However, few doses have been tested in combination. This study evaluated the antifungal efficacy of amphotericin B colloidal dispersion (ABCD) combined with flucytosine with and without fluconazole in a murine model of cryptococcal meningitis. The following dosages were tested: ABCD at 0 to 12.5 mg/kg of body weight given intravenously 3 days/week, flucytosine at 0 to 110 mg/kg/day, and fluconazole at 0 to 50 mg/kg/day. Meningitis was established in male BALB/c mice by intracerebral injection of C. neoformans. Treatment with flucytosine with or without fluconazole dissolved in the sole source of drinking water was started on day 2; animals were sacrificed at 16 days, and the numbers of fungal colonies in the brain were quantified. A survival rate of 100% was achieved with ABCD plus flucytosine without fluconazole; however, the addition of fluconazole was required to prevent weight loss (P < 0.00001) and to achieve the maximum antifungal effect (P < 0.00001). The only region of dose combinations for which the 99% confidence intervals were less than 100 CFU/g of brain was defined by ABCD at 5.0 to 7.5 mg/kg combined with flucytosine at 20 to 60 mg/kg/day and fluconazole at 30 to 40 mg/kg/day. The triple combination of ABCD plus flucytosine and fluconazole was necessary to achieve the greatest antifungal activity.
PMCID: PMC105493  PMID: 9517927

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