Aspergillus is a type of a fungus that can cause diseases in human beings. It is a spore-forming mold that readily grows in nature and infects a wide range of animal spaces.
There are hundreds of different species of Aspergillus, but according to the CDC, only 40 of them can affect human beings. And among them, Aspergillus fumigates is the most common, and most virulent species in human beings.
Aspergillus fumigatus is the most common species in the Aspergillus group identified in human infection. It grows almost anywhere and on any type of substance; however, it’s particularly common in soil and decaying organic material. Other places to find A. fumigatus is in compost piles and cereals.
Blue-green to grey in colour, A. fumigatus has a wool or cotton-like texture. With a rapid growth rate, it grows well at 35°C.
Both allergenic and a major human pathogen, A. fumigatus has been reported to produce a number of mycotoxins that can cause both allergic and invasive disease. It is also the most common cause of aspergillosis in both humans and animals.
Areas where Aspergillus mold thrive
Aspergillus mold grows well in both indoor and outdoor spaces, as long as the conditions are ideal. Generally, warm temperatures of 70 to 120 degrees favor its growth.
The mold also requires a good level of humidity. Therefore, it thrives in soil, decomposing matter such as dried leaves and clippings, droppings of birds and other animals, and on some plants.
Indoors, it grows on household dust, on floors and walls, especially in bathrooms, kitchens and other warm and moist environments.
What food is Aspergillus mold found in?
Ideally, well stored and thoroughly cooked food should not contain any elements of the mold. This only occurs in cases where the food was contaminated, mostly during storage, or preparation.
It occurs on starchy foods such as bread, rice, and cereals. This is because the mold grows well on grains stored in humid granaries. Ingestion of such contaminated exposes consumers to the risk of getting infected with Aspergillus but rarely does this lead to significant illness.
What are the diseases caused by Aspergillus fumigatus?
Aspergillus causes a wide range of diseases in human beings. These different conditions are generally referred to as Aspergillosis.
The most commonly affected organs are those of the respiratory system, with lung disease being the most serious of them all. Below is a list of some of the common forms of Aspergillosis:
- Pulmonary aspergillosis: This is a fungal infection of the lungs. I can be a short-term illness or a chronic illness.
- Aspergilloma or “fungal ball”: Another type of lung infection that leads to the formation of a ball of fungi in the lungs.
- Skin and nail infection
- Allergic conditions: this includes allergic sinusitis and allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis
- Invasive aspergillosis: this is a condition in which the mold gets into the bloodstream, and gets disseminated to various body tissues.
Is Aspergillosis is an opportunistic infection?
A unique aspect of all the various diseases caused by Aspergillus fumigates is that they do not easily occur in a normal, healthy individual.
The fungi mostly affect people with underlying conditions that compromise their immune defenses. It is, therefore, a disease that affects individuals on organ transplant, leukemia patients, or those with HIV AIDS.
Additionally, infections of the lung can affect those with underlying lung diseases such as asthma, cystic fibrosis, or tuberculosis.
Lung infections with Aspergillus fumigatus
These are acquired by inhalation of Aspergillus spores. They lodge in lung tissue and initiate infection. For most people, the infection is often cleared by the lung’s defense mechanisms.
In some cases, it progresses to chronic pulmonary aspergillosis, which is a long-term illness.
According to the CDC, approximately 1.6million people are living with this condition, and the figure is thought to be much higher as there are a lot of undiagnosed or misdiagnosed cases.
What are the symptoms of mold in your lungs?
The most common symptom of pulmonary aspergillosis is coughing. This is non-specific and mimics several other lung diseases. However, the cough is often bloody. Infected patients also get chest pains and experience difficulty in breathing.
One may also get a fever. In most cases, these symptoms often arise in addition to an already existing lung disease such as tuberculosis, or asthma, thus making it difficult to diagnose. When the disease progresses to a chronic state, one may start losing weight and having general body malaise.
What are allergies caused by Aspergillus fumigatus?
Just like other fungal molds, Aspergillus fumigatus is a strong allergen. Allergic reactions to the fungi are usually due to inhalation of its spores.
The allergies can be classified into two: those affecting the upper airways, that is allergic sinusitis, which often causes flu-like symptoms, and those affecting the lower respiratory tract which causes serious symptoms.
Allergic sinusitis causes one to have a runny nose, reduced sense of smell, and maybe a headache. It is more of an irritation, and not a significant medical condition.
Allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis on the hand is a serious form of allergy. This allergy commonly occurs in asthmatics and it is estimated that 2.5% of asthmatics have this kind of allergy. This translates to 4.8 million people worldwide. It presents with serious symptoms: a cough with brown-colored sputum, wheezing, and shortness of breath.
This is the most serious form of aspergillosis. Luckily, it is quite and common. The CDC reports only 1 or 2 cases per 100,000 people yearly. It is exclusively a disease of the immunocompromised, and never affects healthy individuals.
It comes about when the fungi get into the bloodstream and get disseminated to various organs in the body.
It presents as fever and chills, with symptoms of shock. In the lungs, it causes chest pains, bloody coughs, and internal bleeding. It may also cause kidney and liver failure. At this level, the infection is actually life-threatening.
What is the treatment for Aspergillus fumigatus?
Luckily, Aspergillus is an infection that is easy to treat. The mold is sensitive to most antifungal agents, and infected individuals usually respond well to therapy. The medications used are antifungal agents.
Itraconazole is usually the mainstay therapy. Amphotericin B is in cases f serious infection or resistance to other medications. These drugs often eliminate the infection completely.
How do you get rid of Aspergillus fumigatus in the house?
As usual, mold prevention is better than cure. For Aspergillus, this involves decontamination of every possible surface or area where it grows. This is actually very important for households with members suffering from asthma, tuberculosis, cystic fibrosis, and immunocompromising diseases.
The safest way for Aspergillus fumigatus removal is to contact certified mold removal company who will do the mold testing and mold removal. You should even consider getting a proper ventilation system.
In summary, Aspergillus fumigatus is a common mold that readily grows in our vicinity. It is a virulent organism and has the potential of causing illnesses such as pulmonary aspergillosis, skin and nail infections, allergies, and invasive aspergillosis.
Despite being common, the fungi often causes health problems to individuals with underlying lung diseases or immunocompromising conditions. It is however very treatable, and preventable.