Disseminated, histologically confirmed Cryptococcus spp infection in a domestic ferret

David Eshar, Jörg Mayer, Nicola M Parry, Misty J Williams-Fritze, Daniel S Bradway
Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 2010 April 1, 236 (7): 770-4

CASE DESCRIPTION: A 4-year-old castrated male domestic ferret from central Massachusetts was evaluated for weight loss over a 1.5-month period and for 2 days of retching, diarrhea, and signs of lethargy. It had been housed indoors, with 2 other ferrets, 2 cats, and humans that lacked signs or symptoms of disease.

CLINICAL FINDINGS: Physical examination revealed a thin body condition, tachypnea, an increase in respiratory effort, and retching. Splenomegaly was detected during abdominal palpation. Clinicopathologic analysis revealed lymphopenia, lactic acidosis, hypoglycemia, hypocalcemia, hypoalbuminemia, and hyperglobulinemia. A pulmonary bronchointerstitial pattern was evident on radiographs, and abdominal ultrasonography revealed a suspected pancreatic mass and mesenteric lymphadenopathy.

TREATMENT AND OUTCOME: After 2 weeks of medical treatment and once clinical signs resolved, an exploratory laparotomy was performed and a lymph node biopsy specimen was collected. Histologic evaluation of the specimen revealed Cryptococcus-like organisms. Antifungal treatment was initiated with itraconazole (PO) and amphotericin B (IV). The ferret died after 2 days of treatment. A full necropsy was performed, revealing multicentric cryptococcosis affecting the lungs, brain, spleen, and multiple lymph nodes. Paraffin-embedded, formalin-fixed lung tissue was submitted for DNA extraction, and the organism was identified as Cryptococcus neoformans var grubii.

CLINICAL RELEVANCE: To the authors' knowledge, this is the first report of disseminated cryptococcosis in a North American ferret. This case is unique in that the ferret lived indoors, in a geographic region in which reports of cryptococcosis are rare. The genotyping technique used to identify the Cryptococcus strain can aid in better understanding the epidemiology of cryptococcosis.

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