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Definition of Aspergillosis

What is aspergillosis?

Aspergillosis is a disease caused by Aspergillus, a common mold (a type of fungus) that lives indoors and outdoors. Most people breathe in Aspergillus spores every day without getting sick. However, people with weakened immune systems or lung diseases are at a higher risk of developing health problems due to Aspergillus. There are different types of aspergillosis. Some types are mild, but some of them are very serious.1

Types of aspergillosis

  • Allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis (ABPA): Aspergillus causes inflammation in the lungs and allergy symptoms such as coughing and wheezing, but doesn’t cause an infection.2
  • Allergic Aspergillus sinusitis: Aspergillus causes inflammation in the sinuses and symptoms of a sinus infection (drainage, stuffiness, headache) but doesn’t cause an infection.3
  • Aspergilloma: also called a “fungus ball.” As the name suggests, it is a ball of Aspergillus that grows in the lungs or sinuses, but usually does not spread to other parts of the body.4
  • Chronic pulmonary aspergillosis: a long-term (3 months or more) condition in which Aspergillus can cause cavities in the lungs. One or more fungal balls (aspergillomas) may also be present in the lungs.5
  • Invasive aspergillosis: a serious infection that usually affects people who have weakened immune systems, such as people who have had an organ transplant or a stem cell transplant. Invasive aspergillosis most commonly affects the lungs, but it can also spread to other parts of the body.
  • Cutaneous (skin) aspergillosis: Aspergillus enters the body through a break in the skin (for example, after surgery or a burn wound) and causes infection, usually in people who have weakened immune systems. Cutaneous aspergillosis can also occur if invasive aspergillosis spreads to the skin from somewhere else in the body, such as the lungs.6

References

  1. Barnes PD, Marr KA. Aspergillosis: spectrum of disease, diagnosis, and treatment. Infect Dis Clin North Am. 2006 Sep;20(3):545-61, vi.
  2. Agarwal R, Chakrabarti A, Shah A, Gupta D, Meis JF, Guleria R, et al. Allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis: review of literature and proposal of new diagnostic and classification criteria. Clin Exp Allergy. 2013 Aug;43(8):850-73.
  3. Glass D, Amedee RG. Allergic fungal rhinosinusitis: a review. Ochsner J. 2011 Fall;11(3):271-5.
  4. Lee SH, Lee BJ, Jung DY, Kim JH, Sohn DS, Shin JW, et al. Clinical manifestations and treatment outcomes of pulmonary aspergilloma. Korean J Intern Med. 2004 Mar;19(1):38-42.
  5. Denning DW, Riniotis K, Dobrashian R, Sambatakou H. Chronic cavitary and fibrosing pulmonary and pleural aspergillosis: case series, proposed nomenclature change, and review. Clin Infect Dis. 2003 Oct 1;37 Suppl 3:S265-80.
  6. Van Burik JA, Colven R, Spach DH. Cutaneous aspergillosis. J Clin Microbiol. 1998 Nov;36(11):3115-21.
 
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