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World Aspergillosis Day

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World Aspergillosis Day

Source: Mayo Clinic

February 1st is World Aspergillosis Day. Aspergillosis is an infection caused by a type of mold (fungus). The illnesses resulting from an aspergillosis infection usually affect the respiratory system, but their signs and severity vary greatly.


The mold that triggers the illnesses, aspergillus, is everywhere — indoors and outdoors. Most strains of this mold are harmless, but a few can cause serious illnesses when people with weakened immune systems, underlying lung disease, or asthma inhale their fungal spores.

In some people, the spores trigger an allergic reaction. Other people develop mild to serious lung infections. The most serious form of aspergillosis — invasive aspergillosis — occurs when the infection spreads to blood vessels and beyond. Depending on the type of aspergillosis, treatment may involve observation, antifungal medications, or, in rare cases, surgery.



Aspergillus mold is unavoidable. Outdoors, it's found in decaying leaves and compost and on plants, trees and grain crops.


Everyday exposure to aspergillus is rarely a problem for people with healthy immune systems. When mold spores are inhaled, immune system cells surround and destroy them. But people who have a weakened immune system from illness or immunosuppressant medications have fewer infection-fighting cells. This allows aspergillus to take hold, invading the lungs and, in the most serious cases, other parts of the body.


Aspergillosis is not contagious from person to person.

Risk factors

Your risk of developing aspergillosis depends on your overall health and the extent of your exposure to mold. In general, these factors make you more vulnerable to infection:

  • Weakened immune system. People taking immune-suppressing drugs after undergoing transplant surgery — especially bone marrow or stem cell transplants — or people who have certain cancers of the blood, are at highest risk of invasive aspergillosis. People in the later stages of AIDS also may be at increased risk.

  • Low white blood cell level. People who have had chemotherapy, an organ transplant, or leukemia have lower white blood cell levels, making them more susceptible to invasive aspergillosis. So does having chronic granulomatous disease — an inherited disorder that affects immune system cells.

  • Lung cavities. People who have air spaces (cavities) in their lungs are at higher risk of developing aspergillomas.

  • Asthma or cystic fibrosis. People with asthma and cystic fibrosis, especially those whose lung problems are long-standing or hard to control, are more likely to have an allergic response to aspergillus mold.

  • Long-term corticosteroid therapy. Long-term use of corticosteroids may increase the risk of opportunistic infections, depending on the underlying disease being treated and what other drugs are being used.


Depending on the type of infection, aspergillosis can cause a variety of serious complications:

  • Bleeding. Both aspergillomas and invasive aspergillosis can cause severe, and sometimes fatal, bleeding in your lungs.

  • Systemic infection. The most serious complication of invasive aspergillosis is the spread of the infection to other parts of your body, especially your brain, heart and kidneys. Invasive aspergillosis spreads rapidly and may be fatal.


It's nearly impossible to avoid exposure to aspergillus, but if you have had a transplant or are undergoing chemotherapy, try to stay away from places where you're likely to encounter mold, such as construction sites, compost piles, and buildings that store grain. If you have a weakened immune system, your doctor may advise you to wear a face mask to avoid being exposed to aspergillus and other airborne infectious agents


When to see a doctor

If you have asthma or cystic fibrosis, see your doctor whenever you notice a change in your breathing. Although aspergillosis may not be the cause, it's important to have breathing problems evaluated.


If you have a weakened immune system and develop an unexplained fever, shortness of breath, or a cough that brings up blood, get immediate medical care. In the case of invasive aspergillosis, prompt treatment is crucial. In some cases, treatment with antifungal medication begins as soon as aspergillosis is suspected, even before testing has confirmed the diagnosis.


Pulmonary medicine is the subspecialty of internal medicine that focuses on the diagnosis and management of disorders of the respiratory system, including the lungs, upper airways, thoracic cavity, and chest wall. Campbell County Health pulmonologist Dr. Michael S. Nolledo diagnoses and treats these disorders. Breathe again and breathe clear with the help of our expert pulmonary team.


Talk to your healthcare provider about your lung health and find out if a referral to a pulmonologist is right for your health.

For more information visit our website or call us at 307.688.3615.
  • Category: Campbell County Medical Group Pulmonary & Sleep Medicine, CCH News, CCMG News, CCMH News, Health Matters, Health News