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Year : 2010  |  Volume : 13  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 213-215

An elusive diagnosis: Scedosporium apiospermum infection after near-drowning

1 Department of Neurology, Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences and Technology, Trivandrum, Kerala, India
2 Department of Microbiology, Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences and Technology, Trivandrum, Kerala, India

Date of Submission10-Jun-2009
Date of Decision05-Jul-2009
Date of Acceptance16-Jul-2009
Date of Web Publication5-Oct-2010

Correspondence Address:
Ajith Cherian
Department of Neurology, Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences and Technology, Trivandrum - 695 011, Kerala
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0972-2327.70878

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A 51-year-old male was admitted in our institute following an episode of near-drowning. He later developed ventriculitis and cerebral ring-enhancing lesions. He died following a subarachnoid hemorrhage due to rupture of a mycotic aneurysm involving the right fetal posterior cerebral artery. Scedosporium apiospermum was isolated from the cerebrospinal fluid. Central nervous system invasion by S apiospermum may present insidiously in near-drowning patients and, therefore, requires a high index of suspicion. In cases with the characteristic cerebral ring-enhancing lesions and concomitant ventriculitis, treatment should be instituted while awaiting fungal culture. With this article we intend to alert neurologists, intensivists, and physicians to this near fatal infection, as early identification and prompt treatment with voriconazole may be life saving.

Keywords: Fungal meningitis, near-drowning, Pseudallescheria boydii, Scedosporium apiospermum

How to cite this article:
Gopinath M, Cherian A, Baheti NN, Das A, Antony M, Sarada C. An elusive diagnosis: Scedosporium apiospermum infection after near-drowning. Ann Indian Acad Neurol 2010;13:213-5

How to cite this URL:
Gopinath M, Cherian A, Baheti NN, Das A, Antony M, Sarada C. An elusive diagnosis: Scedosporium apiospermum infection after near-drowning. Ann Indian Acad Neurol [serial online] 2010 [cited 2021 Apr 14];13:213-5. Available from:

   Introduction Top

Central nervous system (CNS) infection is an uncommon but serious complication of near-drowning. Scedosporium apiospermum and its sexual form Pseudallescheria boydii, a soil and waterborne fungus, has been incriminated as a common causative agent in this setting. [1],[2] These infections are usually insidious in onset and typically occur a few weeks after the initial submersion injury. [3] CNS invasion by S apiospermum is resistant to amphotericin B and is very often fatal. [4] We report the case of an adult male who died following subarachnoid hemorrhage after a near-drowning episode. Culture of the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) later showed growth of S apiospermum.

   Case Report Top

A 51-year-old farmer had a near-drowning episode and was resuscitated after rescue. He developed bronchopneumonia and was managed with parenteral antibiotics. Two weeks later he developed bifrontal headache, with features suggestive of raised intracranial pressure. Examination showed neck stiffness and a positive Kernig sign, without other focal neurological deficits. Magnetic resonance (MR) imaging of the brain showed ring-enhancing lesions in the left parieto-occipital region, right anterior temporal pole, and left temporal lobe. In addition, ventriculitis involving the right frontal horn was noted [Figure 1]. CSF examination showed 254 cells/mm 3 with 65% polymorphs and 35% lymphocytes. CSF glucose was 43 mg/dl (CSF glucose/plasma glucose ratio: 0.53) and protein 58 mg/dl. Gram's stain, acid-fast bacillus stain, and India ink stain of the CSF were all negative, so was CSF cysticercal antibody and panfungal antigen assay. CSF culture for pyogenic bacteria and tubercle bacilli and blood cultures were sterile. CSF-PCR for tuberculosis was also negative. Fungal culture reports were awaited.
Figure 1: MRI coronal postcontrast T1 sequence shows ringenhancing lesion in the right anterior temporal pole and left parietooccipital region (black arrows); there is enhancement involving the right frontal horn, suggesting ventriculitis

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Subacute meningitis was considered as a diagnostic possibility as the patient had had prior bronchopneumonia and he was started on empirical broad-spectrum antibiotics in meningitic dose. He continued to be febrile without demonstrating any focal deficits. Six weeks into the illness, he developed recurrent seizures and a repeat computerized tomography (CT) of the brain showed a subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH) involving the basal cisterns and cortical sulci; extending to the occipital horns, third and fourth ventricles. There was also mild hydrocephalus. [Figure 2]. CT angiogram showed an 8 Χ 8 mm fusiform aneurysm with a saccular projection arising from the middle of the right fetal posterior cerebral artery (PCA), directed postero-supero-laterally [Figure 3]. The patient's condition deteriorated abruptly, precluding any invasive management. Despite supportive measures, he succumbed to the illness two months after the near-drowning episode. Scedosporium apiospermum in Graphium state (asexual coremial form) was later grown from the CSF sample sent for fungal culture.
Figure 2: Computerized tomography (CT) shows diffuse subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH) involving the basal cisterns, prepontine cistern (white arrow), left sylvian cistern, bilateral occipital horns (white arrow), third and fourth ventricle along with mild hydrocephalus

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Figure 3: Three-dimensional reconstructed CT angiogram shows fusiform aneurysm with a saccular projection arising from the middle of right fetal posterior cerebral artery (PCA) and directed posterosupero-
laterally (white arrow)

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   Discussion Top

Scedosporium species belongs to the filamentous fungi. Two species, S apiospermum and Scedosporium prolificans have health effects that can be serious and even fatal. The telemorph (sexual phase) of S apiospermum is called Pseudallescheria boydii. S apiospermum has yet another asexual coremial form called Graphium eumorphum, but this is usually reported as the 'Graphium state of Scedosporium apiospermum.' [1],[2]

S apiospermum is a ubiquitous fungus of soil and polluted water. [2] It causes a wide spectrum of diseases, from localized to invasive infections in both immunocompetent and immunocompromised patients. The most common presentation is as white grain mycetoma, a chronic subcutaneous fungal infection of the lower extremities. S apiospermum can also invade the lungs, kidneys, thyroid, eye, and brain. [1],[3] CNS invasion may be by direct inoculation (during trauma or surgery), by extension from a source near the brain (paranasal sinuses, eye, or ear), or by hematogenous spread from the lung in cases of massive aspiration (as in near-drowning). There is increasing evidence that aspiration of polluted water is an important factor predisposing to CNS infection, even in immunologically competent patients. [4],[5] The majority of cases that have been reported following near-drowning incidents have shown clinical evidence of pulmonary infection (with diffuse or localized lung infiltrates on chest X-ray) prior to CNS dissemination; as was true in our case also. [6] , The CNS manifestation is usually insidious in onset, typically occurring a few weeks after the initial submersion injury. [5]

CNS infection can manifest as brain abscess, meningitis, encephalitis, ventriculitis, or as vascular involvement with resultant sinus thrombosis and cerebral infarction. [1] Of the 24 cases of CNS invasion with S apiospermum following near-drowning (excluding this one), 17 had cerebral abscesses at presentation, with three patients having concomitant ventriculitis. Ventriculitis has been attributed to the spread of infection via the choroid plexus. [6],[7],[8] The initial MR imaging in our patient showed ventriculitis involving the right frontal horn, in addition to multiple ring-enhancing lesions.

Like Aspergillus species, S apiospermum shows a high affinity for blood vessels. It quickly invades the cerebral vessels, causing ischemia and brain infarction. [8],[9] Concomitant intracerebral, intraventricular, or subarachnoid hemorrhages secondary to angioinvasion have been reported rarely. [9],[10] Cerebral aneurysms caused by this organism are even rarer. They usually affect the circle of Willis and the proximal arterial tree, tend to enlarge and extend, involving long segments of the vascular wall. Pathologic studies have shown that they are friable and poorly defined. In our case, the mycotic aneurysm was detected only after subarachnoid hemorrhage had occurred. Endovascular or surgical treatment of these aneurysms is extremely difficult, if not impossible. They are associated with a very high (nearly 100%) mortality rate once they rupture. [11],[12]

Early diagnosis of the infection may be difficult as the onset of neurological symptoms revealing CNS invasion may be delayed (by several weeks or even months), as in our case. [4],[5] A high index of suspicion should be maintained in near-drowned patients to ensure early diagnosis of S apiospermum infection and detection of CNS dissemination. [8]

CNS infection caused by S apiospermum is uniformly fatal without treatment. Even with surgical intervention and antifungal therapy, three-fourths of the patients do not survive. [6] Complicating the issue further, S apiospermum has often turned out to be resistant to a variety of conventional antimycotic agents, including amphotericin B. [4],[8],[12],[13],[14] Voriconazole is the agent that best combines the qualities of anti-scedosporial activity and CNS penetration. Prolonged treatment (>1 year) with voriconazole may lead to resolution of brain and lung lesions and thus help avoid surgical resection. [15]

   Conclusion Top

Neurological symptoms due to S apiospermum may appear late in cases of near-drowning and the presence of unexplained fever or neurologic abnormalities in near-drowning victims should always raise suspicion for this infection. Cerebral ring-enhancing lesions and concomitant ventriculitis with or without preceeding pneumonia in this setting is virtually diagnostic. In this scenario, initiating therapy with voriconazole while awaiting fungal isolation may be life saving.

   Acknowledgment Top

We would like to thank Dr M. R. Shivaprakash, MD, Associate Professor, Mycology Division, Department of Medical Microbiology, Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh, India, for his help in identifying the organism.

   References Top

1.Kwon-Chung KJ, Bennet JE. Medical mycology. Philadelphia: Lea and Febiger; 1992. p. 678-94.  Back to cited text no. 1      
2.Alexopoulos C, Mims C, Blackwell M. Introductory mycology. New York: Wiley and Sons, Inc; 1996.   Back to cited text no. 2      
3.Koneman EW, Allen SD. Color atlas and textbook of diagnostic microbiology. Philadelphia: JB Lippincott; 1992. p. 792-6.   Back to cited text no. 3      
4.Nesky MA, McDougal EC, Peacock JE Jr. Pseudallescheria boydii brain abscess successfully treated with Voriconazole and surgical drainage: case report and literature review of central nervous system pseudallescheriasis. Clin Infect Dis 2000;31:673-7.   Back to cited text no. 4      
5.Wilichowski E, Christen HJ, Schiffmann H, Schulz-Schaeffer W, Behrens-Baumann W. Fatal Pseudallescheria boydii panencephalitis in a child after near-drowning. Pediatr Infect Dis 1996;15:365-70.   Back to cited text no. 5      
6.Kantarcioglu AS, Guarro J, de Hoog GS. Central nervous system infections by members of the Pseudallescheria boydii species complex in healthy and immunocompromised hosts: Epidemiology, clinical characteristics and outcome. Mycoses 2008;51:275-90.   Back to cited text no. 6  [PUBMED]  [FULLTEXT]  
7.Berenguer J, Diaz-Mediavilla J. Central nervous system infection caused by Pseudallescheria boydii: Case report and review. Rev Infect Dis 1989;11:890-6.   Back to cited text no. 7      
8.Kershaw P, Freeman R. Pseudallescheria boydii infection of the central nervous system. Arch Neurol 1990;47:468-72.   Back to cited text no. 8      
9.Albernaz V, Huston B, Castillo M, Mukherji S, Bouldin TW. Pseudallescheria boydii infection of the brain: Imaging with pathologic confirmation. AJNR Am J Neuroradiol 1996;17:589-92.   Back to cited text no. 9      
10.Apostolova LG, Johnson EK, Adams HP. Disseminate Pseudallescheria boydii infection successfully treated with voriconazole. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 2005;76:1741-2.   Back to cited text no. 10      
11.Messori A, Lanza C, De Nicola M, Menichelli F, Capriotti T, Morabito L, et al. Mycotic aneurysms as lethal complication of brain pseudallescheriasis in a near-drowned child: A CT demonstration. AJNR Am J Neuroradiol 2002;23:1697-9.   Back to cited text no. 11  [PUBMED]  [FULLTEXT]  
12.Watson JC, Myseros JS, Bullock MR. True fungal mycotic aneurysm of the basilar artery: a clinical and surgical dilemma. Cerebrovasc Dis 1999;9:50-3.   Back to cited text no. 12  [PUBMED]  [FULLTEXT]  
13.Luu KK, Scott IU, Miller D, Davis J. Endogenous Pseudallescheria boydii endophthalmitis in a patient with ring-enhancing brain lesions. Ophthalmic Surg Lasers 2001;32:325-9.   Back to cited text no. 13      
14.Khurshid A, Barnett VT, Sekosan M, Ginzburg AS, Onal E. Disseminated Pseudallescheria boydii infection in a nonimmunocompromised host. Chest 1999;116:572-4.   Back to cited text no. 14  [PUBMED]  [FULLTEXT]  
15.Chaney S, Gopalan R, Berggren RE. Pulmonary Pseudallescheria boydii infection with cutaneous zygomycosis after near drowning. South Med J 2004;97:683-7.  Back to cited text no. 15  [PUBMED]  [FULLTEXT]  


  [Figure 1], [Figure 2], [Figure 3]

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