(San Felice) Vuill.
Cryptococcus neoformans is an encapsulated yeast that can live in both plants and animals. Its teleomorph is Filobasidiella neoformans, a filamentous fungus belonging to the class Tremellomycetes. It is often found in pigeon excrement.
Cryptococcus neoformans is composed of two varieties (v.): C. neoformans v. neoformans and v. grubii. A third variety, C. neoformans v. gattii, is now considered a distinct species, Cryptococcus gattii. C. neoformans v. grubii and v. neoformans have a worldwide distribution and are often found in soil which has been contaminated by bird excrement. The genome sequence of C. neoformans v. neoformans was published in 2005. Recent studies suggest that colonies of Cryptococcus neoformans and related fungi growing on the ruins of the melted down reactor of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant may be able to use the energy of radiation (primary beta radiation) for "radiotrophic" growth.
Cryptococcus neoformans grows as a yeast (unicellular) and replicates by budding. C. neoformans makes hyphae during mating, and eventually creates basidiospores at the end of the hyphae before producing spores. Under host-relevant conditions, including low glucose, serum, 5% carbon dioxide, and low iron, among others, the cells produce a characteristic polysaccharide capsule.  When grown as a yeast, C. neoformans has a prominent capsule composed mostly of polysaccharides. Microscopically, the India ink stain is used for easy visualization of the capsule in cerebral spinal fluid. The particles of ink pigment do not enter the capsule that surrounds the spherical yeast cell, resulting in a zone of clearance or "halo" around the cells. This allows for quick and easy identification of C. neoformans. For identification in tissue, Mucicarmine stain provides specific staining of polysaccharide cell wall in Cryptococcus neoformans.
C. neoformans grows rapidly on exposure to radiation such as gamma-radiation. Radiation seems to increase the electron-transfer capability of melanin in the fungus, increasing its total metabolic activity.
Infection with C. neoformans is termed cryptococcosis. Most infections with C. neoformans consist of a lung infection. However, fungal meningitis and encephalitis, especially as a secondary infection for AIDS patients, are often caused by C. neoformans making it a particularly dangerous fungus. Infections with this fungus are rare in those with fully functioning immune systems. For this reason, C. neoformans is sometimes referred to as an opportunistic fungus. It is a facultative intracellular pathogen.
In human infection, C. neoformans is spread by inhalation of aerosolized spores (basidiospores) and can disseminate to the central nervous system where it can cause meningoencephalitis.  In the lungs, C. neoformans are phagocytosed by alveolar macrophages  Macrophages produce oxidative and nitrosative agents, creating a hostile environment, to kill invading pathogens. However, some C. neoformans can survive intracellularly in macrophages. Intracellular survival appears to be the basis for latency, disseminated disease, and resistance to eradication by antifungal agents. One mechanism by which C. neoformans survives the hostile intracellular environment of the macrophage involves up-regulation of expression of genes involved in responses to oxidative stress.
Meiosis (sexual reproduction), another possible survival factor for intracellular C. neoformans
The vast majority of environmental and clinical isolates of C. neoformans are mating type a. Filaments of mating type a ordinarily have haploid nuclei, but these can undergo a process of diploidization (perhaps by endoduplication or stimulated nuclear fusion) to form diploid cells termed blastospores. The diploid nuclei of blastospores are able to undergo meiosis, including recombination, to form haploid basidiospores that can then be dispersed. This process is referred to as monokaryotic fruiting. Required for this process is a gene designated dmc1, a conserved homologue of genes recA in bacteria, and rad51 in eukaryotes (see articles recA and rad51). Dmc1 mediates homologous chromosome pairing during meiosis and repair of double-strand breaks in DNA. (Also see article Meiosis.) Lin et al. suggested that one benefit of meiosis in C. neoformans could be to promote DNA repair in the DNA damaging environment caused by the oxidative and nitrosative agents produced in macrophages. Thus C. neoformans can undergo a meiotic process, monokaryotic fruiting, that may promote recombinational repair in the oxidative, DNA damaging environment of the host macrophage, and this may contribute to its virulence.
Cryptococcosis that does not affect the central nervous system can be treated with fluconazole alone.
Cryptococcal meningitis should be treated for two weeks with intravenous Amphotericin B 0.7–1.0 (mg/kg)/day and oral flucytosine 100 (mg/kg)/day (or intravenous flucytosine 75 (mg/kg)/day if the patient is unable to swallow). This should then be followed by oral fluconazole 200 mg daily for ten weeks and then 200 mg daily until the patient's CD4 count is above 100 for three months and, if infected, his HIV viral load is undetectable.
Intravenous Ambisome 4 (mg/kg)/day may be used but is not superior: its main use is in patients who do not tolerate Amphotericin B. The 200 (mg/kg)/day dose for flucytosine is not more effective, is associated with more side-effects and should not be used.
In Africa, oral fluconazole at a rate of 200 mg daily is used. However, this does not result in cure because it merely suppresses the fungus and does not kill it; viable fungus can continue to be grown from CSF of patients who have taken fluconazole for many months. An increased dose of 400 mg daily does not improve outcomes, but preliminary data from Uganda shows that very high doses of 1200 mg or more per day may be effective. The duration of this treatment and the post-treatment maintenance dose is not known.
- Loftus BJ, et al. (2005). "The genome of the basidiomycetous yeast and human pathogen Cryptococcus neoformans". Science 307 (5713): 1321–24. doi:10.1126/science.1103773. PMID 15653466.
- Dadachova E, et al. (2007). "Ionizing Radiation Changes the Electronic Properties of Melanin and Enhances the Growth of Melanized Fungi". In Rutherford, Julian. PLoS ONE 2 (5): e457. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0000457. PMC 1866175. PMID 17520016.
- Ionizing radiation changes the electronic properties of melanin and enhances the growth of melanized fungi. PLoS ONE 2 (5): e457
- Tripathi K, Mor V, Bairwa NK, Del Poeta M, Mohanty BK.(2012)."Hydroxyurea treatment inhibits proliferation of Cryptococcus neoformans in mice."
- What Makes Cryptococcus neoformans a Pathogen?, Kent L. Buchanan and Juneann W. Murphy University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA
- Alvarez, M.; Burns, T.; Luo, Y.; Pirofski, L. A.; Casadevall, A. (2009). "The outcome of Cryptococcus neoformans intracellular pathogenesis in human monocytes". BMC Microbiology 9: 51. doi:10.1186/1471-2180-9-51. PMC 2670303. PMID 19265539.
- Velagapudi R, Hsueh YP, Geunes-Boyer S, Wright JR, Heitman J (2009). Spores as infectious propagules of Cryptococcus neoformans. Infect Immun 77(10):4345-55. doi: 10.1128/IAI.00542-09. PMID: 19620339
- Fan W, Kraus PR, Boily MJ, Heitman J (2005). Cryptococcus neoformans gene expression during murine macrophage infection. Eukaryot Cell 4(8):1420-1433. PMID: 16087747
- Alspaugh JA, Granger DL (1991). Inhibition of Cryptococcus neoformans replication by nitrogen oxides supports the role of these molecules as effectors of macrophage-mediated cytostasis. Infect Immun 59(7):2291-2296. PMID: 2050398
- Lin X, Hull CM, Heitman J (2005). Sexual reproduction between partners of the same mating type in Cryptococcus neoformans. Nature 434(7036):1017-1021. PMID: 15846346
- Michod RE, Bernstein H, Nedelcu AM Adaptive value of sex in microbial pathogens. Infect Genet Evol 8(3):267-285. Review. PMID: 18295550 http://www.hummingbirds.arizona.edu/Faculty/Michod/Downloads/IGE%20review%20sex.pdf
- Saag MS, Graybill RJ, Larsen RA, et al. (2000). "Practice guidelines for the management of cryptococcal disease. Infectious Diseases Society of America". Clin Infect Dis 30 (4): 710–8. doi:10.1086/313757. PMID 10770733.
- Martínez E, García-Viejo MA, Marcos MA, et al. (2000). "Discontinuation of secondary prophylaxis for cryptococcal meningitis in HIV-infected patients responding to highly active antiretroviral therapy". AIDS 14 (16): 2615–26. doi:10.1097/00002030-200011100-00029. PMID 11101078.
- Vibhagool A, Sungkanuparph S, Mootsikapun P, et al. (2003). "Discontinuation of secondary prophylaxis for Cryptococcal meningitis in Human Immunodeficiency Virus-infected patients treated with highly active antiretroviral therapy: a prospective, multicenter, randomized study". Clin Infect Dis 36 (10): 1329–31. doi:10.1086/374849. PMID 12746781.
- CF Schaars, Meintjes GA, Morroni C, et al. (2006). "Outcome of AIDS-associated cryptococcal meningitis initially treated with 200 mg/day or 400 mg/day of fluconazole". BMC Infect Dis 6: 118. doi:10.1186/1471-2334-6-118. PMC 1540428. PMID 16846523.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Cryptococcus neoformans|
- A good overview of Cryptococcus neoformans biology from the Science Creative Quarterly
- Cryptococcus neoformans biology, general information, life cycle image at MetaPathogen
- The outcome of Cryptococcus neoformans intracellular pathogenesis in human monocytes