Cryptococcus neoformans meningoencephalitis in African children with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome

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Background.The number of children with AIDS in Africa is high. Such children may be at risk for cryptococcal meningoencephalitis, but data are scarce regarding this disease in our population.Methods.We examined records of HIV-infected children (≤16 years) diagnosed with cryptococcal meningoencephalitis in Harare, Zimbabwe, between 1995 and 2000. To elucidate features unique to pediatric disease, the children were compared with adult patients with HIV-associated cryptococcal meningoencephalitis.Results.Thirteen children presented to our institution with headache (85%), nuchal rigidity (69%), vomiting (46%), impaired mental status (38%), convulsions (38%) and focal neurologic signs (23%). The mean duration of symptoms before diagnosis was 9 days. Cerebrospinal fluid examination revealed normal white blood cell counts in 64%, protein value in 67% and glucose concentration in 57% of patients. Children were more likely than adults to have seizures (38%vs. 11%, P = 0.02) and normal cerebrospinal fluid protein (67%vs. 10%, P < 0.01). The in-hospital mortality was 43%. Convulsions (P = 0.05) and impaired mental status (P < 0.01) were associated with increased mortalityConclusions.Cryptococcal meningoencephalitis in African children presents acutely or subacutely, can have a fulminant picture and is consistent with progressive meningoencephalitis.

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