Aspergillosis

What is Aspergillosis?

Aspergillosis is the collective name for diseases related to a fungal infection from the genus aspergillus. Conditions falling within this category are usually affected by underlying respiratory issues. Aspergillosis-related infections can also affect people who have asthma or other breathing problems.

Forms of Aspergillosis

There are multiple forms of aspergillosis, with most types involving lung functioning in one way or other. The three most common forms of aspergillosis are:

  • Allergic pulmonary aspergillosis: Essentially an allergic reaction to the aspergillus fungus, this infection typically forms in people with existing lung issues.
  • Aspergilloma: A fungus ball develops with this condition, usually in an area of the lungs previously affected by lung disease or an area with scarring from a prior condition.
  • Invasive pulmonary aspergillosis: Usually coupled with pneumonia, this form of aspergillosis often affects individuals with an already weakened immune system or people on medications that lower white blood cell counts.

What are the Symptoms of Aspergillosis?

Symptoms associated with aspergillosis can vary depending on the specific form of the infection.

Symptoms include

  • Coughing that includes brownish mucus
  • Fever or a generally ill feeling
  • Shortness of breath
  • Weight loss

Aspergillosis Causes

Fungi of the genus Aspergillus are the primary source of a number of diseases which are collectively known as Aspergillosis. Out of these, the most frequently identified pathogen is Aspergillus fumigatus, which has been shown to be the biggest contributor to ill health in those who already have some type of immunodeficiency. One of the primary reasons is the fact that this particular pathogen can handle extensive types of environmental stress which others are not capable of enduring. Underlying illnesses can cause those who already have something like tuberculosis or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) to be more susceptible in general.

It has been shown that the average human inhales thousands of Aspergillus spores each day, but when the immune system prevents it from entering the immune system then there can be problems. Without a proper immune response, the spores can then make their way throughout the body which can lead to problems with the major organs such as the heart and kidneys. As such, hematopoietic stem cell transplantation, AIDS, or chemotherapy for leukemia are all related to immune system deficiencies which can allow the unwanted dissemination of Aspergillus throughout the human body. The spores are then able to enter the bloodstream through the lungs and infiltrate in an adverse manner.

How is Aspergillosis Treated?

Bleeding into lung tissues from fungal balls is treated with anti-fungal medications and sometimes with surgery. A serious aspergillosis infection is often treated with oral or intravenous (IV) anti-fungal medications. Inflammation of heart chamber lining (endocarditis) caused by the infection is treated surgically with the removal of the infected valve.

The aspergillosis fungus is often found on dead or decaying leaves. It can develop and spread in piles of dead leaves, compost piles, or in places where grains are stored without proper protection. Exposure to this fungus is fairly common. Most people experience no noticeable health issues unless they have conditions that make them vulnerable.

Aspergillosis Prevention

The best method of prevention of Aspergillosis is to limit mold exposure though various methods. For example, a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter air purifier will do the best job at stopping the tiny fungus particles. As well, an anti-fungal prophylaxis can be given to patients who are at a higher risk in order to help reduce the chance that the spores will cause ill effects in them. Posaconazole is the most common prophylaxis in that regard which can be used for its anti-fungal properties in people with highly compromised immune systems. It is always wise to live as healthy a lifestyle as possible to prevent the indications of this and other conditions.

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Last Reviewed:
September 12, 2016
Last Updated:
November 10, 2017