Stories From the Field

Fighting a deadly fungus: Preventing deaths from Cryptococcus

In people with weakened immune systems such as those living with HIV/AIDS, the fungus Cryptococcus can cause a life-threatening brain infection called cryptococcal meningitis. The widespread availability of antiretroviral therapy in developed countries has helped improve the immune systems of many HIV patients so that they don’t become vulnerable to infection with Cryptococcus. However, cryptococcal meningitis is still a major problem in resource-limited countries where HIV prevalence is high and access to healthcare is limited.

Although it’s not possible to prevent the initial exposure to Cryptococcus, early diagnosis and treatment of cryptococcal infections in people at high risk for developing cryptococcal meningitis can prevent associated deaths. CDC is working to improve diagnosis and treatment of cryptococcal meningitis in countries with large populations of people living with HIV/AIDS. CDC is helping implement targeted cryptococcal screening programs and build laboratory capacity to detect cryptococcal infections early. This allows for more timely treatment, reduced mortality due to cryptococcal meningitis, and improved quality of life.

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