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Infect Dis Clin North Am. 1990 Dec;4(4):789-808.

Fungal meningitis.

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Section of Infectious Diseases, Evans Memorial Department of Clinical Research, Boston University Medical Center, Massachusetts.


Fungal meningitis tends to be a subacute or chronic process; however, it may be just as lethal as bacterial meningitis if untreated. There are many similarities between the pathogenic fungi. Most of the fungi are aerosolized and inhaled, and initiate a primary pulmonary infection which is usually self-limited. Hematogenous dissemination may follow the initial infection, with subsequent involvement of the CNS. Rarely, trauma or local extension provides the route to CNS infection. The host is frequently, although not always, immunosuppressed. The hyphae of molds generally cause focal disease with hemorrhagic necrosis secondary to vascular thrombosis. The yeasts tend to cause a more diffuse process with the base of the brain being primarily affected, such that hydrocephalus is seen as a frequent complication of chronic disease. Diagnosis may be difficult, as the CSF may be normal, with negative smears and sterile cultures, although more often there is at least one abnormality indicating disease. Serologies (if available, depending on the fungus) may point towards the proper diagnosis, as may a careful travel history. Currently, amphotericin B is still the drug of choice in most situations; however, the newer azole antifungal agents offer great promise, especially in the treatment of cryptococcal meningitis. The precise role of such agents will remain unclear until appropriate large-scale studies of their effectiveness have been completed. The treatment of the unusual CNS mycoses will continue to be based on clinical experience, and reports of the use of new azoles in these diseases need to be critically evaluated.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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