Pulmonary cryptococcosis: A review of pathobiology and clinical aspects

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Pulmonary cryptococcosis is an important opportunistic invasive mycosis in immunocompromised patients but it is also increasingly seen in immunocompetent patients. The main human pathogens are Cryptococcus neoformans and C. gattii which have a world-wide distribution. In contrast to cryptococcal meningitis, pulmonary cryptococcosis is still underdiagnosed because of limitations in diagnostic tools. It can mimic lung cancer, pulmonary tuberculosis, bacterial pneumonia and other pulmonary mycoses both clinically and radiologically. Pulmonary nodules are the most common radiological feature, but these are not specific to pulmonary cryptococcosis. The sensitivity of culture of respiratory samples for Cryptococcus is poor and a positive result may also reflect colonisation. Cryptococcal antigen (CrAg) with lateral flow device is a fast and sensitive test and widely used on serum and cerebrospinal fluid, but sera from patients with pulmonary cryptococcosis is rarely positive in the absence of disseminated disease. Detection of CrAg from respiratory specimens might assist the diagnosis of pulmonary cryptococcosis but there are very few data. Molecular detection techniques such as multiplex RT PCR could also provide better sensitivity but these still require validation for respiratory specimens. The first line treatment for pulmonary cryptococcosis is fluconazole, or amphotericin B and flucytosine for those with central nervous system involvement. Pulmonary cryptococcosis worsens the prognosis of cryptococcal meningitis. In this review, we summarise the biological aspects of Cryptococcus and provide an update on the diagnosis and management of pulmonary cryptococcosis.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)133-150
Number of pages18
JournalMedical Mycology
Issue number2
Early online date16 Oct 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2019


  • Cryptococcal pneumonia
  • cryptococcal infection of lungs
  • Cryptococcus neoformans
  • Cryptococcus gattii


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