Aspergillosis: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

A form of mould infection called Aspergillosis causes the illness (fungus). Aspergillosisrelated infections often affect the respiratory system, but symptoms and severity can vary widely.

Aspergillus, the mould that causes the infections, is present both inside and outdoors. The majority of these mould strains are not harmful, but a few of them can be harmful to those with compromised immune systems, underlying lung conditions, or asthma when they inhale their fungus spores.

Treatment options for Aspergillosis might range from monitoring to antifungal drugs to, in extreme circumstances, surgery.

Aspergillosis: Causes

Aspergillus mould cannot be prevented. It may be found outside on plants, trees, and grain crops as well as in compost and decomposing leaves.

For those with strong immune systems, daily exposure to aspergillus seldom causes issues. Inhaled mould spores are surrounded and destroyed by immune system cells. In contrast, fewer infection-fighting cells are present in persons whose immune systems have been compromised by disease or immunosuppressive drugs. As a result, aspergillus can establish a foothold and spread to other regions of the body, most seriously the lungs.

Aspergillosis: Symptoms

Depending on the sickness you have, Aspergillosis has different signs and symptoms −

An Allergic Response

Some sufferers of cystic fibrosis or asthma experience an allergic response to aspergillus mould. This disorder, also known as Allergic Bronchopulmonary Aspergillosis, has the following signs and symptoms −

  • Fever

  • A cough that occasionally produces blood or mucus plugs

  • Increasing asthma


Emphysema, TB, or advanced sarcoidosis are a few chronic lungs (pulmonary) diseases that can result in the formation of air gaps (cavities) in the lungs. Aspergillus can cause lung cavities to get infected, leading to aspergillomas, which are tangled masses of aspergillus that develop in the lung cavities.

A moderate cough may be the sole sign of an aspergilloma initially.

However, aspergillomas have the potential to aggravate the underlying chronic lung illness over time and without treatment, leading to −

  • A cough that frequently produces blood (hemoptysis)

  • Wheezing

  • Breathing difficulty

  • Unintentional loss of weight

  • Fatigue

Aspergillosis Invasive

The most serious aspergillosis is this one. The rapid infection spread from the lungs to the brain, heart, kidneys, or skin causes it to happen. Only those with compromised immune systems due to immune system disorders, cancer treatment, bone marrow transplantation, or other immune system-related conditions are susceptible to invasive aspergillosis. This kind of aspergillosis may be lethal if left untreated.

Depending on the organs involved, the signs and symptoms of invasive aspergillosis might include −

  • Chills and a fever

  • Cough that produces blood (hemoptysis)

  • Breathing difficulty

  • Joint or chest aches

  • Eye issues or headaches

  • Skin blemishes

Aspergillosis: Risk Factors

Your level of exposure to mould and general health both affect your chances of having Aspergillosis. In general, these elements increase your susceptibility to infection −

  • Compromised immune system. The highest risk groups for invasive aspergillosis are those using immune-suppressing medications following transplant surgery, particularly bone marrow or stem cell transplants, and those with certain blood malignancies. Additionally, those with advanced AIDS may be at higher risk.

  • Low amount of white blood cells. Low white cell counts make those who have had chemotherapy, organ transplantation, or been diagnosed with leukaemia more vulnerable to invasive aspergillosis. Having chronic granulomatous disease, a genetic condition that damages immune system cells also has this effect.

  • Lung chambers. Aspergillomas are more likely to form in individuals who have air gaps (cavities) in their lungs.

  • Both cystic fibrosis and asthma. Asthma and cystic fibrosis sufferers are more prone to react allergically to aspergillus mould, especially if their lung issues are severe or difficult to manage.

  • Long-term use of corticosteroids. Depending on the underlying condition being treated and the other medications being taken, prolonged usage of corticosteroids may raise the risk of opportunistic infections.

Aspergillosis: Diagnosis

Invasive aspergillosis or aspergilloma might be challenging to diagnose. Although Aspergillus is widespread in all habitats, it can be challenging to differentiate it under a microscope from some other moulds. Aspergillosis symptoms are comparable to those of other lung diseases including TB.

To identify the underlying cause of your symptoms, your doctor may perform one or more of the tests listed below −

  • Imaging exam. A fungal tumour (aspergilloma), as well as the telltale indications of both allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis and invasive aspergillosis, may typically be seen on a chest X-ray or computed tomography (CT) scan, a form of X-ray that gives more detailed pictures than standard X-rays do.

  • Sputum test for respiratory secretions. This test involves staining a sample of your sputum with a dye and looking for aspergillus filaments. In order to confirm the diagnosis, the material is then put in a culture that promotes the growth of the mould.

  • Tests on tissue and blood. Confirmation of allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis may be helped by skin testing, blood tests, and sputum examinations. A little quantity of aspergillus antigen is injected beneath the skin of your forearm for the skin test. At the injection location, you'll experience a firm, red bump if your blood has antibodies against the mould. Blood tests check for elevated levels of certain antibodies that signify an allergic reaction.

Aspergillosis: Treatment

The following methods can be applied to treat Aspergillosis −

  • Observation. Simple, isolated Aspergillomas sometimes don't require treatment, and drugs are frequently ineffective against these fungi. Aspergillomas without symptoms may instead just need to be regularly watched by a chest X-ray. Antifungal drugs may be suggested if the illness worsens.

  • Corticosteroids are taken orally the aim of treating allergic bronchopulmonary Aspergillosis is to stop cystic fibrosis or asthma from getting worse. Oral corticosteroids are the greatest method for accomplishing this. Although antifungal drugs by themselves are ineffective for treating allergic bronchopulmonary Aspergillosis, they can be used in conjunction with corticosteroids to improve lung function while lowering the dosage of the steroids.

  • Drugs that fight fungus. The recommended course of therapy for invasive pulmonary Aspergillosis is this medication. The best remedy is Voriconazole, a more recent antifungal medication. Another one is Amphotericin B.

  • Surgery. When an Aspergilloma causes pulmonary hemorrhage, surgery to remove the fungal mass is the primary line of treatment since antifungal drugs don't penetrate an Aspergilloma very effectively.

Aspergillosis: Prevention

Severely immunocompromised persons should avoid getting exposed to the outside world. It's vital to remember that even if these steps are advised, their ability to stop Aspergillosis has not been established.

  • Avoid going to dusty places, such as construction or excavation sites.

  • Avoid tasks like gardening or yard work that requires close contact with soil or dust. If it's not feasible,

  • When engaging in outside activities, such as gardening, yard maintenance, or visiting forested regions, wear shoes, long trousers, and a long-sleeved shirt.

  • When working with substances like dirt, moss, or manure, gloves should be used.

  • Clean skin injuries thoroughly with soap and water, especially if they have been exposed to soil or dust, to lessen the likelihood that they will get infected.


There are few antifungal medication treatments available for the wide spectrum of disorders that Aspergillus causes, a situation that is made worse by the growing danger of antifungal drug resistance. Novel diagnostic and treatment methods are thus required to enhance patient outcomes.

Dr. Durgesh Kumar Sinha
Dr. Durgesh Kumar Sinha