About C. gattii Infection

Medical illustration of <em>C. gattii</em>.

Medical illustration of C. gattii.

Cryptococcus gattii (C. gattii) is a fungus that can cause a disease called cryptococcosis. Cryptococcosis usually affects the lungs or the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord), but it can also affect other parts of the body. Brain infections caused by C. gattii and other types of Cryptococcus are called cryptococcal meningitis. C. gattii lives in soil and on certain trees, primarily in tropical and subtropical regions across the world.1,2 People can become infected with C. gattii after breathing in the microscopic fungus from the environment.

In the United States, scientists have found that C. gattii (previously known as  C. neoformans serotypes B and C) has caused infections in humans and animals in California since at least the 1960s.3 Until the past few decades, C. gattii was not known to cause locally acquired infections elsewhere in the United States. However, in 2004, scientists found that different strains of C. gattii were causing illness in the Pacific Northwest (Oregon and Washington) after having been found in neighboring parts of Canada a few years earlier.38 Since then, scientists have found that people have gotten C. gattii infections in other areas of the United States, particularly in the Southeast, without a history of travel to the West Coast.7 This suggests that C. gattii likely exists in the environment in many regions of the country. Scientists are still learning more about where it lives and why certain people get infected.

  1. Springer DJ, Chaturvedi V. Projecting global occurrence of Cryptococcus gattiiexternal icon. Emerg Infect Dis. 2010 Jan;16(1):14-20.
  2. Harris J, Lockhart S, Chiller T. Cryptococcus gattii: where do we go from here? external iconMed Mycol. 2011 Sep 22.
  3. Wilson DE, Bennett JE, Bailey JW. Serologic grouping of Cryptococcus neoformans. external iconProc Soc Exp Biol Med. 1968 Mar;127(3):820-3.
  4. Stephen C, Lester S, Black W, Fyfe M, Raverty S. Multispecies outbreak of cryptococcosis on southern Vancouver Island, British Columbiaexternal icon. Can Vet J. 2002 Oct;43(10):792-4.
  5. Hoang LM, Maguire JA, Doyle P, Fyfe M, Roscoe DL. Cryptococcus neoformans infections at Vancouver Hospital and Health Sciences Centre (1997-2002): epidemiology, microbiology and histopathologyexternal icon. J Med Microbiol. 2004 Sep;53(Pt 9):935-40.
  6. Datta K, Bartlett KH, Baer R, Byrnes E, Galanis E, Heitman J, et al. Spread of Cryptococcus gattii into Pacific Northwest region of the United Statesexternal icon. Emerg Infect Dis. 2009 Aug;15(8):1185-91.
  7. CDC. Emergence of Cryptococcus gattii– Pacific Northwest, 2004-2010. MMWR. 2010 Jul 23;59(28):865-8.
  8. Harris JR, Lockhart SR, Sondermeyer G, Vugia DJ, Crist MB, D’Angelo MT, et al. Cryptococcus gattii infections in multiple states outside the US Pacific Northwestexternal icon. Emerg Infect Dis. 2013 Oct;19(10):1621-7.