Fungal meningitis facts*
*Fungal meningitis facts medical author: Charles P. Davis, MD, PhD
- Fungal meningitis is rare; the most common cause is Cryptococcus spp. infection, but many other fungi may occasionally cause meningitis.
- Fungal meningitis is not transmitted from person to person. The fungi are usually inhaled and then spread by the blood to the central nervous system; fungi may also be directly inserted into the central nervous system by medical techniques or enter from an infected site near the central nervous system to cause meningitis.
- Risk factors include any disease or treatment that may weaken the immune system, surgical procedures and medications may introduce fungi into the central nervous system, and other factors such as pregnancy or living in areas that have high fungal concentrations in the soil or air increase
the risk of fungal meningitis.
- Headache, stiff neck, fever, nausea and vomiting,
altered mental status are potential symptoms of fungal meningitis.
- Blood and cerebrospinal fluid are cultured and examined to diagnose fungal meningitis.
- Treatment of fungal meningitis is with IV antifungal drugs; the length of treatments vary with the patient's immune status.
- Although no specific activities are known to cause fungal meningitis, people with immune system problems are advised to avoid areas and geographical regions where soil, dust, or bird droppings may have high fungal contamination.
Fungal meningitis is rare and usually the result of spread of a fungus
through blood to the spinal cord. Although anyone can get fungal meningitis,
people with weak immune systems, like those with
AIDS or cancer, are at higher
The most common cause of fungal meningitis for people with weak immune
systems is Cryptococcus. This disease is one of the most common causes of adult
meningitis in Africa.
Fungal meningitis is not contagious, which means it is not transmitted from
person to person. Fungal meningitis can develop after a fungus spreads through
the bloodstream from somewhere else in the body, as a result of the fungus being
introduced directly into the central nervous system, or from an infected body
site infection next to the central nervous system.
You may also get fungal meningitis after taking medications that weaken your
immune system. Examples of these medications include steroids (such as
prednisone), medications given after organ transplantation, or anti-TNF
medications, which are sometimes given for treatment of rheumatoid arthritis or
other autoimmune conditions.
Different types of fungus are transmitted in several ways. Cryptococcus is
thought to be acquired through inhaling soil contaminated with bird droppings,
and Histoplasma is found in environments with heavy contamination of bird or bat
droppings, particularly in the Midwest near the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers.
Blastomyces is thought to exist in soil rich in decaying organic matter in the
Midwest United States, particularly the northern Midwest.
Coccidioides is found
in the soil of endemic areas (Southwestern US and parts of Central and South
America). When these environments are disturbed, the fungal spores can be
inhaled. Meningitis results from the fungal infection spreading to the spinal
cord. Candida is usually acquired in a hospital setting.
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Fungal Meningitis - Exposure
Question: Have you recently had an epidural steroid injection? If so, are you worried about being exposed to fungal meningitis?