Cryptococcosis

Cause

Cryptococcosis is caused by various varieties of yeast, most commonly Cryptococcus neoformans.

Description

If inhaled, these yeasts can cause infection of the brain and other organs. It is a zoonotic disease affecting people, cats, dogs, horses, cattle, sheep, ferrets and koalas.

Where the disease occurs

The disease has a world-wide distribution but is extremely rare in Queensland.

The disease in animals

Infection can occur in most species, either as a generalised disease or meningoencephalitis. It is listed as a cause of bovine mastitis.

How people get the disease

The yeasts are commonly found in the excretions of pigeons and starlings that accumulate in old buildings, church towers and in soil. The yeasts grow using the nutrients within the faeces. People usually become infected by inhaling the contaminated dust.

Many people are exposed to the yeasts without developing the disease. Anyone who frequents contaminated areas is at risk. People with a disability or who are compromised by other diseases are particularly susceptible to cryptococcosis. The disease is a common infection of people affected by HIV-AIDS.

In Australia the disease tends to affect adult males more commonly. However, in the Northern Territory, Aboriginal people are more prone to the disease.

Treatments for people

Antifungal agents are required to treat the disease. The course of treatment is long and toxicity problems may occur in response to some drugs.

Preventing disease in people
  • Avoid contact with dry birds' faeces.
  • Remove faeces after first dampening with water to reduce the risk of inhalation.
  • Do not expose immuno-compromised people to sources of the yeast, including potentially infected animals and humans.

Further information

Last updated 08 January 2014