What is aspergillosis?

Aspergillosis is basically an allergic reaction or infection triggered by different kinds of mold. The mold is often found on rotting vegetative matter, soil or on plants. It is important to note that mold can also thrive indoors on food items such as ground spices, household dust and building materials. The type of mold likely to trigger aspergillosis in some individuals upon inhalation of the spores is the Aspergillus fumigatus.

Who are at risk?

Being exposed to aspergillus is not likely to trigger issues in most individuals whose immune systems are healthy. On the other hand, those who have chronic lung issues or individuals with weakened immune systems face a higher risk for developing the infection. Those who have weakened immune systems include those under chemotherapy or those who had organ transplants.

Types of aspergillosis

Aspergillosis

Wheezing or worsening of asthma

Pulmonary aspergillosis

This type is likely to develop among individuals with chronic lung conditions or damaged lungs. The spores can grow within the lung cavities that developed as a result of chronic conditions such as emphysema, tuberculosis or advanced sarcoidosis. The presence of aspergillomas is also a characteristic of this type.

Allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis

This is an allergic reaction that develops in some individuals after being exposed to Aspergillus fungus. The fungus triggers inflammation in the air passages and lungs. This condition is quite common among those who have cystic fibrosis or asthma since they have more mucus in the airways.

Invasive aspergillosis

This is the most severe form that develops once the infection travels from the lungs into the bloodstream. Other organs such as the liver, kidney, brain or skin can be infected. Remember that this is a serious condition that can be fatal if not treated.

Causes

In most circumstances, aspergillosis is due to Aspergillus fumigatus. This mold is often found on compost piles, dead leaves and other rotting vegetable matter as well as foods and spices.

The spores can travel indoors on clothing and shoes and grow on carpeting. The air conditioners in window-type form are prone to mold growth if the filters are not regularly cleaned. Areas where buildings are torn down or renovated might be contaminated with the mold spores.

Symptoms of aspergillosis

The symptoms can range from mild to severe depending on the type.

Pulmonary aspergillosis

With this type, it might not cause any symptoms, especially during the early stages. Once the condition progresses, the symptoms include the following:

  • Wheezing
  • Coughing that can be accompanied by blood or mucus
  • Chest pain
  • Fever
  • Difficulty breathing

Allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis

  • Fever
  • Coughing with blood or mucus
  • Wheezing or worsening of asthma
  • Inability to tolerate exercise or asthma triggered by exercise
  • Increased production of mucus or sputum

Invasive aspergillosis

  • Fever and chills
  • Breathing difficulties such as shortness of breath
  • Liver or kidney failure
  • Blood-streaked cough or significant bleeding from the lungs
  • Shock

Treatment

  • Oral corticosteroid drugs – These are used in managing the allergic type by reducing the inflammation as well as preventing respiratory symptoms such as coughing and wheezing from worsening.
  • Antifungal drugs – These are used to manage the invasive type. They are oftentimes used with the oral corticosteroids but can lead to serious side effects.
  • Surgery – This is required if aspergillomas are present and cause serious issues such as a bleeding.

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