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Aspergillus fumigatus: Types Of Illnesses, Risk Factors And Treatment

Aspergillus fumigatus is a type of mould or fungus, that is commonly found all around you. The fungus can be found in plant matter, soil and even in the household dust. All of us tend to inhale its spores which enter your pulmonary system and cause irritations and allergies.

In a healthy individual with a strong immune system, the mould will be cleared off without posing any risk. However, in the case of individuals with a weakened immune system, the fungus can cause various complications and severe infection [1] .

Aspergillus fumigatus is responsible for 90 per cent of Aspergillus illnesses. Studies point out that a single individual breathes in a minimum of several hundreds of the spores daily, but they pose problems in individuals with lung diseases or a weakened immune system.

Illnesses Caused By Aspergillus fumigatus

Allergic diseases or infections caused by mould are called aspergillosis. Among the different varieties of the fungus, Aspergillus fumigatus is the most common illness-causing but other species such as A. flavus, A. niger, and A. terreus also cause allergies and infections [2] .

Types Of Aspergillus fumigatus Illnesses

1. Chronic pulmonary aspergillosis: The illness develops in stages. It is mostly found in individuals suffering from chronic lung conditions that cause air spaces to develop in your lungs. These cavities, when left untreated can lead to thickening and scarring of lung tissue. Tuberculosis and emphysema are examples of the condition [3] .

The symptoms of the condition are

  • night sweats,
  • fever,
  • unexplained weight loss,
  • cough, which may include coughing up blood,
  • shortness of breath,
  • a feeling of illness or discomfort and
  • fatigue.

2. Allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis: An allergic reaction to the Aspergillus spores, the condition causes damage in your airways and lungs. It is commonly found in individuals with asthma and cystic fibrosis.

The symptoms of the condition include

  • weakness,
  • fever,
  • illness or discomfort and
  • coughing up brown plugs of mucus or mucus that contains blood.

3. Invasive aspergillosis: This is the most serious form of aspergillosis and when left untreated, can be fatal. An invasive aspergillosis is a severe form of aspergillosis that begins in the lungs and gradually spread to other parts of your body such as your skin, brain, or kidneys [4].

The symptoms of the condition include

  • cough,
  • fever,
  • shortness of breath and
  • chest pain that worsens when you take deep breaths.

Risk Factors Of Aspergillus fumigatus Infection

If you have the following aspects, you are at a high risk of contracting diseases and allergies [5] .

  • A weakened immune system
  • A lung condition such as cystic fibrosis or asthma
  • Low white blood cell count
  • Long-Term corticosteroid therapy
  • If you are recovering from a recent influenza infection

Diagnosis Of Aspergillus fumigatus Infection

It is often difficult to diagnose the condition as the symptoms of infections caused by the mould are similar to that of other lung conditions [6] .

The methods used for diagnosing the mould include a culture of a sputum sample so as to detect the mould, a chest x-ray for checking signs of infection, a blood test to detect if antibodies are present in your bloodstream and tests to check for a component of the fungal cell wall of Aspergillus and other fungal species are also conducted.

Apart from that, a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is also used to detect Aspergillus species from a sputum or tissue sample and skin or blood tests will be conducted to confirm allergies [7] .

Treatment For Aspergillus fumigatus Infection

The treatment measures depend on the conditions [8] .

Allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis can be treated with oral corticosteroids. Chronic pulmonary aspergillosis that consists of nodules or single aspergillomas may not require treatment. Antifungal medications are used to treat more serious cases of chronic pulmonary aspergillosis, as well as invasive aspergillosis [9] [10] .

Apart from these, embolization or surgical removal is also considered a treatment option, in case of any complications.

View Article References
  1. [1] Van De Veerdonk, F. L., Gresnigt, M. S., Romani, L., Netea, M. G., & Latgé, J. P. (2017). Aspergillus fumigatus morphology and dynamic host interactions. Nature Reviews Microbiology, 15(11), 661.
  2. [2] Van der Linden, J. W. M., Arendrup, M. C., Warris, A., Lagrou, K., Pelloux, H., Hauser, P. M., ... & Dannaoui, E. (2015). Prospective multicenter international surveillance of azole resistance in Aspergillus fumigatus. Emerging infectious diseases, 21(6), 1041.
  3. [3] Jiménez-Ortigosa, C., Moore, C., Denning, D. W., & Perlin, D. S. (2017). Emergence of echinocandin resistance due to a point mutation in the fks1 gene of Aspergillus fumigatus in a patient with chronic pulmonary aspergillosis.Antimicrobial agents and chemotherapy,61(12), e01277-17.
  4. [4] Verweij, P. E., Chowdhary, A., Melchers, W. J., & Meis, J. F. (2015). Azole resistance in Aspergillus fumigatus: can we retain the clinical use of mold-active antifungal azoles?.Clinical Infectious Diseases,62(3), 362-368.
  5. [5] Meis, J. F., Chowdhary, A., Rhodes, J. L., Fisher, M. C., & Verweij, P. E. (2016). Clinical implications of globally emerging azole resistance in Aspergillus fumigatus.Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences,371(1709), 20150460.
  6. [6] Paulussen, C., Hallsworth, J. E., Álvarez‐Pérez, S., Nierman, W. C., Hamill, P. G., Blain, D., ... & Lievens, B. (2017). Ecology of aspergillosis: insights into the pathogenic potency of Aspergillus fumigatus and some other Aspergillus species.Microbial biotechnology,10(2), 296-322.
  7. [7] Arendrup, M. C., Melchers, W. J., & Verweij, P. E. (2016). Azole Resistance of Aspergillus fumigatus in Immunocompromised Patients with Invasive Aspergillosis.Emerging infectious diseases,22(1), 158-159.
  8. [8] Verweij, P. E., Zhang, J., Debets, A. J., Meis, J. F., van de Veerdonk, F. L., Schoustra, S. E., ... & Melchers, W. J. (2016). In-host adaptation and acquired triazole resistance in Aspergillus fumigatus: a dilemma for clinical management.The Lancet Infectious Diseases,16(11), e251-e260.
  9. [9] Rolle, A. M., Hasenberg, M., Thornton, C. R., Solouk-Saran, D., Männ, L., Weski, J., ... & Boschetti, F. (2016). ImmunoPET/MR imaging allows specific detection of Aspergillus fumigatus lung infection in vivo.Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,113(8), E1026-E1033.
  10. [10] Lamoth, F. (2016). Aspergillus fumigatus-related species in clinical practice.Frontiers in microbiology,7, 683.
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