Triple infection with Cryptococcus, varicella-zoster virus, and Mycobacterium abscessus in a patient with anti-interferon-gamma autoantibodies: a case report

BMC Infect Dis. 2020 Mar 19;20(1):232. doi: 10.1186/s12879-020-4949-4.


Background: The most common infection in patients positive for anti-interferon-gamma autoantibodies (anti-IFN-γ AAbs) is disseminated nontuberculous mycobacterial (dNTM) infection. Here, we report a rare case of triple infection caused by Cryptococcus, varicella-zoster virus (VZV), and nontuberculous mycobacterium in a patient with anti-IFN-γ AAbs.

Case presentation: A 53-year-old Thai man presented with a progressively enlarging right cervical mass with low-grade fever and significant weight loss for 4 months. He also developed a lesion at his left index finger. A biopsy of that lesion showed granulomatous inflammation with yeast-like organisms morphologically consistent with cryptococcosis. Serum cryptococcal antigen was positive. Histopathology of a right cervical lymph node revealed chronic granulomatous lymphadenitis, and the lymph node culture grew Mycobacterium abscessus. One month later, he complained of vision loss in his left eye and subsequently developed a group of painful vesicles at the right popliteal area of S1 dermatome. Lumbar puncture was performed and his cerebrospinal fluid was positive for VZV DNA. His blood test for anti-HIV antibody was negative. Anti-IFN-γ AAbs was positive, but test for anti-granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor autoantibodies (anti-GM-CSF AAbs) was negative. He was treated with amphotericin B plus fluconazole for cryptococcosis; a combination of amikacin, imipenem, azithromycin, and levofloxacin for dNTM infection; and, intravenous acyclovir for disseminated VZV infection. After treatment, our patient's fever and cervical lymphadenopathy were subsided, and his vision and visual acuity were both improved.

Conclusions: This is the first case of triple infection with cryptococcosis, VZV, and dNTM in a patient who tested positive for anti-IFN-γ AAbs and negative for anti-GM-CSF AAbs. This case will increase awareness and heighten suspicion of these infections in patients with the described presentations and clinical characteristics, and this will accelerate diagnosis and treatment.

Keywords: Anti-interferon-gamma autoantibody; Cryptococcus; Mycobacterium abscessus; Nontuberculous mycobacteria; Varicella-zoster virus.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Acyclovir / therapeutic use
  • Amphotericin B / therapeutic use
  • Autoantibodies
  • Coinfection
  • Cryptococcosis / drug therapy*
  • Cryptococcosis / microbiology
  • Fluconazole / therapeutic use
  • Herpesvirus 3, Human / immunology
  • Humans
  • Immunologic Deficiency Syndromes / complications*
  • Interferon-gamma / immunology
  • Lymphadenopathy
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mycobacterium Infections, Nontuberculous / drug therapy*
  • Mycobacterium Infections, Nontuberculous / microbiology
  • Mycobacterium abscessus
  • Varicella Zoster Virus Infection / drug therapy


  • Autoantibodies
  • Amphotericin B
  • Interferon-gamma
  • Fluconazole
  • Acyclovir