About Cryptococcosis

Key points

  • Cryptococcosis is a serious fungal infection caused by breathing in fungal spores in the environment.
  • Cryptococcus neoformans and Cryptococcus gattii cause most infections.
  • Most infections occur in people with weakened immune systems, particularly people with HIV/AIDS.
  • Cryptococcus usually infects the lung or brain (cryptococcal meningitis).
  • Treatment requires antifungal medications.
Illustration of a sillouhette of a person breathing in spores depicted as dots and Cryptococcus.. The brain is highlighted showing cryptoccus in the brain from the lungs, An HIV ribbon is in the background


Cryptococcosis is a fungal disease caused by breathing in spores from Cryptococcus, a fungus found in the environment. The infection can affect the different parts of the body but usually causes lung or brain infections (cryptococcal meningitis).

Different species are found in different parts of the world. Most people who are exposed to Cryptococcus do not get sick. Infections are most common among people with weakened immune systems, particularly among people who have HIV/AIDS.

Cryptococcosis can be deadly and requires treatment with antifungal medication. Screening can help detect and treat infection before symptoms start or become severe.

Signs and symptoms

Cryptococcosis symptoms depend on which part of the body is affected. Symptoms of lung infections can include cough, shortness of breath, chest pain, and fever.

Symptoms of cryptococcal meningitis can include headache, neck pain, sensitivity to light and confusion, or altered behavior.


Two species (types) of Cryptococcus cause most infections, Cryptococcus neoformans (C. neoformans) and Cryptococcus gattii (C. gatti). Causes and risk factors for cryptococcosis may depend on the species. (C. neoformans or C. gattii).

C. neoformans lives in the environment throughout the world. C. gattii lives in tropical and sub-tropical areas; but it has been found in cooler regions like British Columbia and parts of the U.S.

Most infections occur among people with weakened immune systems. especially among people with advanced HIV/AIDS. People who are healthy can get cryptococcosis but it is not common.

Testing and treatment

Healthcare providers review medical history, symptoms, physical examinations, and laboratory tests to diagnose a cryptococcal infection. Healthcare providers can take a sample of tissue or body fluid, like blood or sputum, to send for laboratory testing.

Dr, examining a patient. Patient is on the exam table and doctor is listening to her heart.
Healthcare providers perform physical examinations and laboratory tests to diagnose cryptococcosis.

People who have cryptococcal infection need to take prescription antifungal medication for at least 6 months, often longer.

What CDC is doing

CDC provides technical assistance for targeted screening programs. In targeted screening programs people living with HIV are tested for cryptococcosis before starting antiretroviral therapy (ART).

CDC supports programs in regions with a high prevalence of cryptococcosis, including Southeast Asia, Central and South America, and sub-Saharan Africa. CDC is also supporting many countries to improve laboratory capacity to identify Cryptococcus.