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Skull base aspergillosis in an immunocompetent elderly man with early response to steroid
  1. Pamela Sarkar1,
  2. Christopher Price2,
  3. Mark Fish2 and
  4. Luke Bennetto1
  1. 1 Neurology Department, North Bristol NHS Trust, Bristol, UK
  2. 2 Neurology Department, Taunton and Somerset NHS Foundation Trust, Taunton, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Pamela Sarkar, Pamela.Sarkar{at}


We report the case of a previously well 80-year-old man who presented with subacute bilateral painful optic neuropathy with initial response to corticosteroids but ultimately progressed to a fatal skull base syndrome. Initial presentation of steroid-responsive painful bilateral posterior optic neuropathy, preliminary normal enhanced MRI, normal cerebrospinal fluid and inflammatory markers indicated atypical optic neuritis. However, this progressed to a bilateral orbital apex syndrome with ophthalmoplegia and evidence of abnormal skull base enhancement on subsequent MRI. Biopsy of radiologically abnormal dura was non-diagnostic and negative for fungal stains. He deteriorated and died 8 months after initial presentation. At postmortem, fungal skull base infection was diagnosed. This case demonstrates that chronic skull base fungal infection can: (1) present in elderly immunocompetent patients, (2) show initial improvement with corticosteroids and (3) evade diagnosis on biopsy. We encourage a high index of suspicion for fungal skull base infection in similar cases.

  • infection (neurology)
  • neuroimaging
  • cranial nerves
  • visual pathway

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  • Contributors PS and LB discussed the topic and idea of report. PS produced the manuscript and performed necessary editing. CP and MF provided critical feedback and editing of manuscript. LB finalised the draft and supervised the manuscript.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent Next of kin consent obtained.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.