Home » Volumes » Volume 43 January/February 2010 » Cutaneous cryptococcosis due to Cryptococcus gattii in a patient on chronic corticotherapy

Cutaneous cryptococcosis due to Cryptococcus gattii in a patient on chronic corticotherapy

Fernando Bellissimo-RodriguesI; Maysa BaciottiI; Maria Paula ZanattoI; Jaqueline Otero SilvaII; Marilena dos Anjos MartinsII; Roberto MartinezIII

IInternal Medicine Department, Faculty of Medicine, University Center Barão de Mauá, Ribeirão Preto, SP IIMicology section, Adolfo Lutz Institute, Ribeirão Preto, SP IIIInfectious Diseases Section, Internal Medicine Department, Faculty of Medicine Ribeirão Preto, University of São Paulo. Ribeirão Preto, SP

DOI: 10.1590/S0037-86822010000200022


Cryptococcus gattii é agente causador de uma micose endêmica que afeta principalmente os pulmões e o sistema nervoso central de pacientes imunocompetentes em regiões tropicais e subtropicais do globo. Relato de caso. Um paciente de 66 anos, portador de doença pulmonar obstrutiva crônica, não infectado pelo vírus HIV, em corticoterapia sistêmica prolongada, desenvolveu extensa ulceração do antebraço esquerdo, associada a adenomegalia supraclavicular ipsilateral, em conseqüência à infecção por Cryptococcus gattii. O paciente foi tratado com fluconazol 400mg/dia durante 8 meses, obtendo resolução completa da lesão. Este caso enfatiza que, ainda que raramente, C. gattii pode causar infecção cutâneo-linfática oportunista, em paciente imunocomprometido pelo uso sistêmico de corticosteróides vivendo na região sudeste do Brasil.

Palavras-chaves: Criptococose cutânea. Doença pulmonar obstrutiva crônica. Corticoterapia. Cryptococcus gattii.


Cryptococcus gattii causes a form of endemic mycosis that most commonly affects the lungs and central nervous system of immunocompetent patients living in tropical and subtropical areas of the world. Case report. A 66-year-old man who had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease without HIV infection and had been on systemic corticotherapy for several years developed extensive ulceration of the left forearm that was associated with ipsilateral supraclavicular adenomegaly, consequent to infection with Cryptococcus gattii. The patient was treated with fluconazole 400mg/day for eight months, which led to complete healing of the lesion. This case emphasizes that, although rare, C. gattii may cause opportunistic cutaneous-lymphatic infection in patients living in the southeastern region of Brazil who are immunocompromised through chronic corticotherapy.

Key-words: Cutaneous cryptococcosis. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Corticotherapy.Cryptococcus gattii.




Cryptococcosis is a type of mycosis that most commonly affects the lungs and central nervous system (CNS). Two species are most frequently isolated from human infections: Cryptococcus neoformans and Cryptococcus gattii1.

While C. neoformans has worldwide distribution, can be found in soil and in excretions from many animals, and predominantly affects immunocompromised patients, C. gattii has been mostly isolated from decomposing wood in tropical or subtropical areas and appears to be more virulent, affecting immunocompetent patients more frequently1-3. Exposure to inhalation of both species is a well-known risk factor for developing cryptococcosis.



Here, we present a case report on a 66-year-old man who came to our hospital with a painful ulcerated lesion in his left forearm that he had had for 35 days. He reported that, initially, a small erythematous papule had appeared in the forearm, which became an ulcer and gradually grew until reaching the entire dorsal surface of the forearm (Figure 1). He said that he did not have any history of local skin trauma, fever, respiratory symptoms, headache or any other symptoms. Before admission, his personal doctor had prescribed oral ciprofloxacin and clindamycin for a week but the patient had not noticed any improvement of the lesion.



His epidemiological history included tobacco and alcohol consumption for 25 years, but he had quit these habits 30 years ago. He was born and was still living in an urban area of the City of Ribeirão Preto, State of São Paulo, southeastern Brazil. He had worked as an auto mechanic and had been retired for the last six years.

After retirement, he started to go fishing every month on a river surrounded by subtropical forest near the City of Ribeirão Preto and, every morning, he fed hundreds of wild pigeons on a public square near his home.

As a consequence of his history of tobacco consumption, he had developed chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and had been using prednisone 20mg/day (0.3mg/kg/day) for the last 20 years.

On physical examination, besides the skin lesion described above, a left supraclavicular lymphatic node enlargement was detected by palpation, of around 3cm in diameter. The rest of the physical examination was unremarkable.

Since the clinical diagnosis was not obvious, we performed a biopsy on the skin lesion and sent the material for culturing of bacteria, mycobacteria and fungi, and also for histopathological analysis. The latter revealed chronic inflammation associated with yeast-like cells, through staining using the Gomori methenamine silver (GMS) method, which was suggestive of Cryptococcus sp. Culturing of the skin biopsy in Sabouraud dextrose agar medium revealed growth of Cryptococcussp, which was ultimately identified as C. gattii by means of the phenoloxidase and canavanine-glycine-bromothymol blue tests, which were both positive. Following this, a chest computed tomography scan was performed in order to detect any subclinical pulmonary involvement. The findings were consistent with COPD and showed no signs of pulmonary infection. Cerebrospinal fluid was not collected because of the absence of headache or any other signs of CNS involvement. Counter-immune electrophoresis for cryptococcosis antibodies was performed on the patient’s serum, with positive results down to the dilution of 1:2. Anti-HIV ELISA showed negative results and serum glucose levels were normal. We did not detect any signs of any other organ involvement, or of any other immunosuppressive diseases.

After the diagnosis, prednisone was replaced by aerosolized formoterol plus budesonide and the patient was also treated with oral fluconazole 400mg/day. He was discharged two weeks after the onset of treatment, with a slight improvement of the lesion. As an outpatient, treatment with fluconazole 400mg/day was continued until the lesion had completely healed, which took eight months to occur. At the end of the treatment, the left supraclavicular lymphatic node was no longer detectable by palpation. The lesion scar led to inability to completely extend the forearm, as a small sequela. So far (two years after the end of treatment), no signs of recurrence have been detected.



Cutaneous cryptococcosis may occur as a consequence of hematogenic dissemination of yeasts, after inhalation exposure, or as a local disease, following skin injury, especially when caused by untreated wood1-8. In this case, infection apparently became established through inhalation of fungi, as suggested by the presence of the supraclavicular lymph node enlargement and the absence of skin injury history, but no signs of disseminated disease were detected.

Cryptococcus gattii is an endemic pathogen in the northern and northeastern regions of Brazil, but it has rarely been reported in the southeastern region, probably because of the cooler and drier climate1,2. It has classically been related to lung and/or CNS infections among immunocompetent patients. Skin involvement in immunocompromised patients, as demonstrated here, is very rare2.

As stated in the introduction to this paper, C. gattii has mostly been isolated from decomposing wood in tropical or subtropical areas. Trees in urban public squares might also be implicated9. In our case, the riverbank forest and the public square could both have been the source of the pathogen. The heavy exposure to pigeon feces reported by the patient is intriguing, since this has not been described as a risk factor for C. gattii infection, although it has been described as a factor for C. neoformans infection. On the other hand, this may have just been a confounding factor in the clinical history.

This case emphasizes that, although rare, C. gattii may cause localized skin infection among immunocompromised patients living in the southeastern region of Brazil. It must therefore be borne in mind as a potential diagnosis, when clinically feasible.



1. Santos WRA, Meyer W, Wanke B, Costa SPSE, Trilles L, Nascimento JLM, et al. Primary endemicCryptococcus gattii by molecular type VGII in the state of Pará, Brazil. Mem Inst Oswaldo Cruz 2008; 103: 813-818.         [ Links ]

2. Severo LC, Berta e Zardo I, Londero TL. Cutaneous cryptococcosis due to Cryptococcus neoformans var. gattii. Rev Iberoam Micol 2001;18:200-201.         [ Links ]

3. Chen S, Sorrell T, Nimmo G, Speed B, Currie B, Ellis D, et al. Epidemiology and Host- and Variety-Dependent Characteristics of Infection Due to Cryptococcus neoformans in Australia and New Zealand. Clin Infect Dis 2000; 31:499-508.         [ Links ]

4. Moosbrugger EA, Adams BB, Kralovic SM. Cutaneous cryptococcosis in a patient on corticosteroid therapy for rheumatoid arthritis. Int J Dermatol 2008; 47:630-632.         [ Links ]

5. Lacaz CS, Heins-Vaccari EM, Hernández-Arriagada GL, Martins EL, Prearo CAL, Corim SM, et al. Primary cutaneous cryptococcosis due to Cryptococcus neoformans var. gattii serotype b, in an immunocompetent patient. Rev Inst Med Trop S Paulo 2002; 44:225-228.         [ Links ]

6. Pires Neto RJ, Guimarães MC, Moya MJ, Oliveira FR, Louzada-Júnior P, Martinez R. Hypogammaglobulinemia as predisposing factor for Cryptococcus neoformans infection: regarding two cases. Rev Soc Bras Med Trop 2000; 33:603-608.         [ Links ]

7. Van Grieken SAH, Dupont LJ, Van Raemdonck DEM, Van Bleyenbergh P, Verleden GM. Primary Cryptococcal Cellulitis in a Lung Transplant Recipient. J Heart Lung Transplant 2007; 26:285-289.         [ Links ]

8. Wilson ML, Sewell LD, Mowad CM. Primary cutaneous Cryptococcosis during therapy with methotrexate and adalimumab. J Drugs Dermatol 2008; 7:53-54.         [ Links ]

9. Lazéra MS, Cavalcanti MA, Trilles L, Nishikawa MM, Wanke B. Cryptococcus neoformans var. gattii-evidence for a natural habitat related to decaying wood in a pottery tree hollow. Med Mycol 1998; 36:119-122.         [ Links ]



 Address to:
Dr. Fernando Bellissimo-Rodrigues
Deptº de Clínica Médica/HC/FMRP/USP
Av. Bandeirantes 3900, Monte Alegre
14048-900 Ribeirão Preto, SP, Brasil
Tel: 55 16 3603-6672; 55 16 3602-2319
e-mail: fbellissimo@ig.com.br

Received in 14/10/2009
Accepted in 19/01/2010