Part of the Aspergillus genus comprising about 200 fungi worldwide, Aspergillus ochraceus is a species of mold that is frequently found in grains, soil, and salted food products.
However, because these mold spores are easily airborne, look for them everywhere – both indoors and outdoors (and particularly in damp materials): soil, air, water-storage tanks in hospitals, fireproofing materials, bedding, pillows, ventilation and other types of HVAC systems and computer fans.
Anyone at all familiar with mold in all its various forms will have heard of Aspergillus ochraceus. Let’s take a closer look at this particular mold species; where it’s to be found, what it’s all about, what harm it can cause, and just how we can keep ourselves safe from it. It’s always better to avoid trouble when we can.
Where does Aspergillus ochraceus mold grow?
While the original habitat where this fungus made its home was the soil, time has allowed it to develop and evolve the ability to grow in a variety of environments, particularly warm, damp places.
This is a common trait with many types of mold, especially those that we encounter in our homes. Places such as basements, attics, ventilation units, air vents, storage cupboards, bathrooms, laundry rooms, and all such places can be a potential home within your home for mold.
Aspergillus ochraceus in Cannabis
Like many types of mold, Aspergillus ochraceus can also be found growing on a variety of plant life including peanuts, corn, rice, and various types of fruits and tree nuts.
The hemp or cannabis plant is also among the affected. The presence of the mold on such plants shouldn’t be a cause for concern to us, however, because even though the mold might cause a certain amount of loss in the nutritional value of food crops, it can actually help prevent infection by various bacteria in others, cannabis being one of them.
It does this by producing an antibacterial toxin known as Penicillic acid which guards against harmful bacterial infestations.
What are known species of Aspergillus ochraceus?
While there are numerous species under the genus Aspergillus in the natural world, there are only a couple of known molds under the Aspergillus ochraceus group.
The first is Aspergillus bridgeri, which was discovered in the soils of southern Wyoming, and the second is Aspergillus campestris, first found in North Dakota, both in the United States of America.
These might seem to be isolated regions, but due to the methods by which such species spread, their area of reach might be many miles away from their points of first discovery.
Aspergillus and your health
A. ochraceus is considered an allergen and an irritant as well as causing hypersensitivity pneumonitis and dermatitis. A. ochraceus is also known to produce several mycotoxins, some of which are reported to be kidney and liver toxins. For example, A. ochraceus can produce ochratoxin A, one of the most common mycotoxins that contaminate food.
The types of diseases caused by Aspergillus vary in severity, from an allergy-type illness to life-threatening generalized infections. Aspergillosis is a group of diseases caused by Aspergillus. Aspergillosis symptoms include fever, coughing, chest pain and breathlessness.
Because these symptoms are common to many other illnesses, it is extremely difficult to diagnose aspergillosis. However, the severity of aspergillosis is determined by various factors including the state of a person’s immune system.
Because Aspergillus is a very common indoor mold, particularly in the autumn and winter, you shouldn’t wait to get your home tested.
What allergies are caused by Aspergillus ochraceus?
Just as all others, this type of mold reproduces by disseminating spores which go ahead and settle on different locations, eventually developing new mold colonies where they land.
It’s when we breathe in these spores that the trouble for us starts. People who are sensitive to these spores might experience allergic reactions to them.
Symptoms of an allergic reaction might include:
- trouble breathing
- bloodshot eyes
- a running nose
- and a sore itchy throat among others, depending on how sensitive the person is.
Especially vulnerable to these reactions are young children, the elderly, and people already experiencing problems with their lungs.
What are health effects of Aspergillus ochraceus mold?
Some of the more severe effects of inhaling the spores of this mold, especially in high amounts, can be incredibly dangerous.
Aspergillus ochraceus produces a mycotoxin known as Ochratoxin A (OTA), and this is what particularly harms us. It has been reported to be one of the triggers of liver and kidney cancers.
It has also been pointed to as one of the causes of asthma development in young children. Bronchopulmonary aspergillosis, whereby the spores literally begin to grow and reproduce in a person’s lungs, sometimes leading to their death, is also one of the deadly hazards of the mold.
Aside from these lung-related conditions, cases of paranasal sinusitis have also been attributed to the inhalation of these spores.
Treatment and prevention of Aspergillus ochraceus mold
In the case of farmers looking to curb the establishment and spread of the mold in their farms and plantations, various fungicides have been found to be effective. These include copper oxychloride, sulfur, and mancozeb. These are hazardous substances in themselves, and so their application requires extensive safety precautions and specialized techniques.
For those seeking ways to get rid of the mold in their own homes, it’s highly recommended that professional help is sought. The reasons for this are twofold.
For one, there is always the risk of inhaling a potentially life-threatening amount of spores during your efforts to get rid of them, whichever method you use.
Second, there is no guarantee that you’ll be able to identify all the mold growths in your home and completely eradicate them, leaving you at risk.
We will do this safely and effectively, in addition to being in a position to tell you just what you can do to ensure such mold doesn’t take root in your home later on in time.
As they say, it’s always easier to prevent a problem than to deal with it once it gets to you, so it’s well worth the investment to have experts come and check out your home even if you’re not too sure what kind of mold you’ve spotted. It’s just one part of making sure your house stays a happy home.