Fungal Meningitis Q&A
How is fungal meningitis treated?
It’s a slow process.
“[The treatments] don’t kill the fungus. They just inhibit further growth. Then you have to have your immune system do the rest of the work,” Ostrosky-Zeichner says.
There are two drugs that are being used to treat infected patients: an older drug called amphotericin B and a newer drug called voriconazole.
Amphotericin B comes in several forms. One form of the drug is currently unavailable, according to a list of drug shortages kept by the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists. Other forms have been subject to shortages in the past.
Doctors say they have enough amphotericin to treat patients who need it. But they are worried they could run out if the outbreak gets worse.
“That’s in the back of everyone’s mind. As the case count continues to increase, more patients will need to be treated and the treatment is prolonged,” Schaffner says. “We may be talking about months for some of these patients."
What can a patient expect from recovery?
Some people will make a full recovery, but others can expect long-term damage from the infection or the drugs used to treat it.
“The recovery is long,” Schaffner says. “These fungi actually destroy tissue, and that tissue will eventually heal, but can’t restore itself, so some patients will be left with disabilities.”
In addition, prolonged use of the antifungal drugs can damage the kidneys.
Strokes caused by the fungal infection may also cause lasting mental and physical problems.
“It’s a calamity,” Schaffner says. “It’s really terrible.”