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Treatment of cryptococcal meningitis in resource limited settings

Sloan, Derek Ja,b; Dedicoat, Martin Jc; Lalloo, David Gd

Current Opinion in Infectious Diseases: October 2009 - Volume 22 - Issue 5 - p 455–463
doi: 10.1097/QCO.0b013e32832fa214
Tropical and travel-associated diseases: Edited by Joseph M. Vinetz

Purpose of review Cryptococcal meningitis most commonly occurs in advanced HIV. Although diminishing in the developed world with antiretroviral therapy (ART), it remains a major problem in resource-limited settings. ART rollout will improve long-term HIV survival if opportunistic infections are effectively treated. Considering cryptococcal meningitis in that context, this review addresses excess morbidity and mortality in developing countries, treatment in areas of limited drug availability and challenges posed by combined anticryptococcal and HIV therapy.

Recent findings From Early Fungicidal Activity (EFA) studies, amphotericin B-flucytosine is best induction therapy but often unavailable; high dose amphotericin B monotherapy may be feasible in some settings. Where fluconazole is the only option, higher doses are more fungicidal. Serum cryptococcal antigen testing may identify patients at highest disease risk and primary prophylaxis is effective; the clinical role of such interventions needs to be established. Timing of ART introduction remains controversial; early initiation risks Immune Reconstitution Disease (IRD) delays may increase mortality.

Summary Amphotericin B based treatment is appropriate where possible. More studies are needed to optimize fluconazole monotherapy doses. Other research priorities include management of raised intracranial pressure, appropriate ART initiation and IRD treatment. Studies should focus on developing countries where problems are greatest.

aSchool of Clinical Sciences, University of Liverpool, UK

bTropical and Infectious Diseases Unit, Royal Liverpool University Hospital, Liverpool, UK

cUniversity of Limpopo, Polokwane, Limpopo, South Africa

dLiverpool School of Tropical Medicine, Liverpool, UK

Correspondence to Dr Derek Sloan, Wellcome Trust Clinical PhD Fellow, School of Clinical Sciences, University Clinical Departments, University of Liverpool, Daulby Street, Liverpool, L69 3GA, UK Tel: +44 151 706 5405; fax: +44 151 706 5802; e-mail:

© 2009 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.