Aspergillus disease - aspergillosis

aspergillus disease

Aspergillus as other moulds reproduces by forming small globular spores which can easily be airborne when disturbed by improper handling or just by air currents.  Its natural habitat is soil and therefore is frequently found in compost and also growing on wallpapers and plasterboard. Genus aspergillus contains many species and several are considered to be pathogenic in humans. Aspergillus can cause a range of respiratory diseases such as aspergillosis but can also cause tissue infection and ear infections.

Allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis


This type of aspergillosis affects primarily asthma, cystic fibrosis and bronchiectasis patients. It is a form of allergy developed after exposure to large quantities of aspergillus spores. Aspergillus spores are inhaled into the lungs where they settle and start to develop. Aspergillus mould then grows within the air spaces in the lungs. Although lung tissue is not invader the growth of the fungus causes permanent irritation to lungs. Individual suffering from this type of aspergillosis can get severe allergic reaction anytime when they enter damp building or are exposed to aspergillus spores. This type of aspergillosis is considered to be the mildest of all aspergillus infections. The symptoms of allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis are similar to those of asthma: intermittent episodes of feeling unwell, coughing and wheezing. Sometimes severely affected patients cough up mucus plugs of brown colour.


Aspergillus spores inhaled mainly by the cystic fybrosis patients can start to develop in small cavities in the lunch tissue. The fungal tissue groups together and develops into a dens knot of mould called a “fungal ball”. Aspergillus mould releases toxic? and other allergic by-products, which usually make the suffering person feel ill. On the other hand some affected people may have no symptoms. Weight loss, chronic cough, feeling rundown and tired is common symptoms later. Approximately 50-80% of affected individuals may cough up (haemoptysis). Pre existing lung condition is a significant factor and therefore Aspergilloma usually affects these people. Especially at risk are tuberculosis (TB) sufferers, which by nature of the disease have cavities or damage in their lungs.

Chronic necrotizing aspergillosis

Chronic necrotizing aspergillosis is a slow-spreading, long-lasting infection of the lungs caused by the aspergillus fungus. The aspergillus mould develops inside a cavity of the lung, which was before damaged in some way ether by tuberculosis, sarcoidosis or other respiratory illness. It usually only affects people with an existing lung condition, or people who have a weakened immune system. Medical conditions such as diabetes, long term alcohol abuse and liver disease may cause serious weakening of the immune system.

Invasive pulmonary aspergillosis

Invasive pulmonary aspergillosis is the most serious and life threatening form of aspergillus infection. It affects people with severely weakened immune systems caused by illness or taking immune suppressants. Aspergillus mould spreads rapidly through the body affecting blood, brain, heart and kidneys. Invasive aspergillosis is a medical emergency that requires hospitalisation and prompt treatment with injections of antifungal medication. Invasive aspergillosis is usually fatal in people with weakened or damaged immune system. The most common symptoms are the typical respiratory irritation symptoms including coughing, breathlessness, chest pains and other. Affected individuals usually do not respond to antibiotic treatments.

Aspergillus sinusitis

Aspergillus mould can attack the sinuses leading to a respiratory disease referred to as Aspergillus sinusitis. Similarly to lung aspergillosis the mould can cause the three diseases - allergic sinusitis, a fungal ball or invasive aspergillosis. Individuals suffering from this disease often complain from runny blocked up nose which can lead to development of nasal polyps. The mould ball caused by Aspergillus can develop in a similar fashion to an aspergilloma. In those individuals with normal and strong immune systems the most frequent symptoms are chronic headaches, stuffiness of the nose or discomfort in the face. When patients have damaged immune systems sinusitis can develop into invasive aspergillosis. The most frequent symptoms in this group of patients are facial pain, nasal discharge , headaches and fever.

Otitis externa

Otitis externa can be caused by aspergillus moulds invading the ear canal. Suffering individuals have pain in the external auditory canal. The pain is accompanied by the swelling of ear canal, discharge of mucus and signs of erythema. Excessive moisture and trauma, both of which impair the canal's natural defences, are the two most common precipitants of otitis externa, and avoidance of these precipitants is the cornerstone of prevention. The infection usually set in after trauma to the ear canal which lower the natural ability of the body to defend itself.


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