Integrating cryptococcal antigen screening and pre-emptive treatment into routine HIV care

J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr. 2012 Apr 15;59(5):e85-91. doi: 10.1097/QAI.0b013e31824c837e.


Cryptococcal meningitis is a leading cause of death in AIDS patients in sub-Saharan Africa. Cryptococcal antigen (CRAG) can be detected weeks before onset of symptoms, and those who are asymptomatic but CRAG positive have a high risk of subsequent cryptococcal meningitis and mortality. A new CRAG point of care immunochromatographic test is available that is remarkably easy to administer without laboratory infrastructure or expertise and has excellent sensitivity and specificity. We review the benefits of targeted CRAG screening, developments in CRAG diagnostics, and evidence regarding treatment options that can be implemented into routine HIV care in areas of high cryptococcal burden. Based on published CRAG+ prevalence rates of 2%-12%, the cost to save one life is between $20 to $140 in sub-Saharan Africa. We provide recommendations for implementation, pre-emptive treatment, and identify the gaps in our current knowledge.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • AIDS-Related Opportunistic Infections / diagnosis*
  • AIDS-Related Opportunistic Infections / drug therapy
  • Antifungal Agents / administration & dosage
  • Antigens, Fungal / blood*
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Humans
  • Mass Screening / economics
  • Mass Screening / methods*
  • Meningitis, Cryptococcal / diagnosis*
  • Meningitis, Cryptococcal / drug therapy
  • Microbiological Techniques / economics
  • Microbiological Techniques / methods
  • South Africa


  • Antifungal Agents
  • Antigens, Fungal
  • Biomarkers