Cryptococcal neuroradiological lesions correlate with severity during cryptococcal meningoencephalitis in HIV-positive patients in the HAART era

PLoS One. 2008 Apr 16;3(4):e1950. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0001950.


Cryptococcal meningoencephalitis has an overall global mortality rate of 20% in AIDS patients despite antifungals. There is a need for additional means of precise assessment of disease severity. We thus studied the radiological brain images available from 62 HIV-positive patients with cryptococcocal meningoencephalitis to analyse the brain lesions associated with cryptococcosis in relationship with disease severity, and the respective diagnostic contribution of magnetic resonance (MR) versus computed tomography (CT). In this retrospective multicenter analysis, two neuroradiologists blindly reviewed the brain imaging. Prospectively acquired clinical and mycological data were available at baseline and during follow-up. Baseline images were abnormal on 92% of the MR scans contrasting with 53% of the CT scans. MR/CT cryptococcosis-related lesions included mass(es) (21%/9%), dilated perivascular spaces (46%/5%) and pseudocysts (8%/4%). The presence compared to absence of cryptococcosis-related lesions was significantly associated with high serum (78% vs. 42%, p = 0.008) and CSF (81% vs. 50%, p = 0.024) antigen titers, independently of neurological abnormalities. MR detected significantly more cryptococcosis-related lesions than CT for 17 patients who had had both investigations (76% vs. 24%, p = 0.005). In conclusion, MR appears more effective than CT for the evaluation of AIDS-associated cerebral cryptococcosis. Furthermore, brain imaging is an effective tool to assess the initial disease severity in this setting. Given this, we suggest that investigation for cryptococcosis-related lesions is merited, even in the absence of neurological abnormality, if a high fungal burden is suspected on the basis of high serum and/or CSF antigen titers.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antiretroviral Therapy, Highly Active*
  • Cryptococcosis / complications*
  • Cryptococcosis / drug therapy
  • Cryptococcus / metabolism
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • HIV Seropositivity / complications*
  • HIV Seropositivity / drug therapy
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Male
  • Meningitis, Cryptococcal / complications*
  • Meningoencephalitis / complications*
  • Meningoencephalitis / drug therapy
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / methods
  • Treatment Outcome