Cryptococcal meningitis remains a significant cause of morbidity and mortality amongst patients living with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). The prevalence in the developed world has decreased as HIV is being diagnosed earlier, but is still significant, and the prevalence in resource-limited settings is exceedingly high. The presenting symptoms usually include a headache, fever, and, less often, cranial nerve abnormalities. Space-occupying lesions do occur, but are rare. Once diagnosed, patients should be treated with a combination of amphotericin and flucytosine, with step-down therapy to fluconazole for a minimum of a year, or until the CD4 count is above 100 cells/μL, whichever is longer. In the acute phase of treatment increased opening pressure is common, which should be managed aggressively with frequent lumbar punctures, or through neurosurgical interventions (lumbar drains, ventriculoperitoneal shunts) if those fail. Antiretrovirals should be delayed at least 2 weeks, but maybe as many as 10 weeks, after initiation of antifungal therapy in order to prevent clinical or subclinical immune reconstitution inflammatory syndrome (IRIS), which may lead to increased mortality. However, if IRIS does develop, there is no role for antiretroviral interruption, and the condition should be managed supportively by use of anti-inflammatories and aggressive management of elevated opening pressure, if present. Steroids should be administered for specific indications only (IRIS or cryptococcoma with cerebral edema and risk of herniation) as routine use of steroids increases mortality in cryptococcal meningitis.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHandbook of Clinical Neurology
PublisherElsevier B.V.
Number of pages12
StatePublished - 2018

Publication series

NameHandbook of Clinical Neurology
ISSN (Print)0072-9752
ISSN (Electronic)2212-4152


  • Africa
  • amphotericin
  • cryptococcal meningitis
  • cryptococcus
  • fluconazole
  • flucytosine
  • lymphocytic meningitis


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