Disseminated Cryptococcosis Is a Common Finding among Human Immunodeficiency Virus-Infected Patients with Suspected Sepsis and Is Associated with Higher Mortality Rates

J Fungi (Basel). 2023 Aug 9;9(8):836. doi: 10.3390/jof9080836.


Cryptococcosis is the leading cause of death among people with HIV in Sub-Saharan Africa. The lack of optimum diagnoses and medications significantly impair the management of the disease. We investigated the burden of cryptococcosis and related mortality among people with HIV and suspected sepsis in Ethiopia. We conducted a prospective study at (1) Adama Hospital Medical College and (2) Asella Referral and Teaching Hospital from September 2019 to November 2020. We enrolled adult, HIV-infected patients presenting with suspected sepsis and assessed their 28-day survival rates. We performed blood cultures and cryptococcal antigen (CrAg) testing. In total, 82 participants were enrolled with a median age of 35 years, and 61% were female. Overall, eleven (13%) had positive CrAg tests, of which five grew Cryptococcus in blood cultures. Despite high-dose fluconazole (1200 mg/d) monotherapy being given to those with positive CrAg tests, the 28-day mortality was 64% (7/11), with mortality being significantly higher than among the CrAg-negative patients (9% (6/71); p < 0.001). Cryptococcosis was the leading cause of mortality among HIV-infected sepsis patients in this Ethiopian cohort. The CrAg screening of HIV-infected patients attending an emergency department can minimize the number of missed cryptococcosis cases irrespective of the CD4 T cell count and viral load. These findings warrant the need for a bundle approach for the diagnosis of HIV-infected persons presenting with sepsis in low- and middle-income countries.

Keywords: Africa; HIV; blood culture; cryptococcal infection; qSOFA; sepsis.