Cryptococcal meningitis in renal transplant patients associated with environmental exposure


Correspondence to:Stuart M. Flechner MD FACS
Transplant Center A110
Cleveland Clinic Foundation
9500 Euclid Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44195
Tel: 216 445 5772
Fax: 216 444 9375


Fungal infections in renal transplant recipients are less common than bacterial infections; however, the morbidity from fungal infections is high. There is limited information in the literature concerning post-transplantation cryptococcal infection due to environmental exposure of patients living in high-risk areas. We report three patients who were diagnosed with cryptococcal meningitis after kidney transplantation. Cryptococcal titers prior to transplant surgery were negative in all three patients. These patients all lived in rural areas and demonstrated evidence of environmental exposure leading to subsequent cryptococcal meningitis. All patients had exposure to pigeon and chicken excreta and, after treatment, two patients are alive and well with excellent allograft function. The third patient has marginal renal function but is currently not on dialysis. Early diagnosis is essential for salvage from these potentially lethal infections. Intense headache was a prominent feature in the clinical presentation of our patients, and should signal the need for early sampling and culture of spinal fluid. Meningismus was not present in any of our patients, even when other systemic symptoms were identified. We recommend a high index of suspicion post-transplantation for all patients who may have environmental or occupational exposure to cryptococcus. If infection is detected quickly and treatment instituted promptly, patient recovery and allograft survival are possible. Long-term therapy with fluconazole, a non-nephrotoxic agent, should permit eradication of the infection with preservation of kidney function.