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Aspergillosis - Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

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Aspergillosis leads to lung infection. Read the article below to learn about the symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of aspergillosis.

Written by

Dr. Saberitha

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Shubadeep Debabrata Sinha

Published At January 17, 2023
Reviewed AtFebruary 8, 2024

Introduction

Aspergillosis occurs due to a fungus named aspergillus. It is present in the compost, decay, and marijuana leaves. Individuals with a healthy immune system are rarely affected by aspergillosis. It causes frequent infections in the lungs. The allergic form of aspergillosis occurs in patients with upper respiratory tract infections. The fungal infection may spread to other parts of the body through blood. This condition is known as invasive aspergillosis. The accumulation of fungus in the lungs leads to the condition called aspergilloma.

What Are the Symptoms of Aspergillosis?

The various symptoms associated with aspergillosis are as follows;

  • Cough- The fungal infection irritates the lining of the upper respiratory tract. It results in coughing. The mucus plugs appear brownish due to blood discharge.

  • Fever- The individual falls ill often due to aspergillosis, and the body temperature increases due to fungal infection.

  • Wheezing - Severe fungal infection involves the bronchial tubes and causes wheezing with high-pitched noise.

  • Weight Loss- The aspergillosis infection generally affects immunosuppressed individuals. Eventually, the patient becomes weak and loses weight.

  • Bone Pain- If the fungal infection spreads to the bone, it damages the bone and causes inflammation. As a result, the individual has joint pain.

  • Chest Pain- If the fungal infection involves the heart or lungs, it causes chest pain.

  • Renal Impairment- Since the fungal infection affects the renal tissue present in the kidneys, there is decreased urine output.

  • Skin Disorders- Aspergillosis causes lesions or skin sores by spreading through the connective tissue.

  • Eye Problems- Aspergillosis affects the lens in the eye. Due to this, the individual has a vision impairment.

  • Headache- The fungal infection leads to dehydration and headache.

  • Respiratory Disorders- The individual with aspergillosis has shortness of breath along with chills during the night.

What Are the Risk Factors of Aspergillosis?

The risk factors associated with the fungal infection are as follows;

  • Bronchiectasis- The prolonged fungal infection in the lungs can lead to scarring. It can also damage the tiny air sacs present in the bronchial tubes. This medical condition is known as bronchiectasis.

  • Internal Bleeding- If the fungal infection spreads to the lungs, then it results in internal bleeding.

  • Cystic Fibrosis- The accumulation of mold in the lungs leads to cystic fibrosis. It blocks the air passages and obstructs the breathing process.

  • Weak Immune System- The individual who undergoes chemotherapy for lung tumors, bone marrow transplantation, leukemia (low white cell count in the blood), and autoimmune disorders results in a weak immune system. These individuals are more susceptible to aspergillosis.

  • Corticosteroid Therapy- Individuals with prolonged use of steroids are prone to opportunistic infections like allergic aspergillosis.

What Are the Diagnostic Methods for Aspergillosis?

The physician checks the vital signs and does a physical examination before proceeding with other diagnostic tests. The diagnostic tools are as follows;

  • Aspergillus Antibody Test- The blood sample is collected from the patients infected with aspergillosis. The presence of precipitin in the form of bands indicates a fungal infection. Positive results show the exposure to aspergillosis.

  • Blood Test- The complete blood count is determined for the patient with aspergillosis. Because the alteration in the white blood cell, red blood cell, and hemoglobin indicates microbial infection. The excess level of IgE antibodies in the blood indicates allergic aspergillosis. The existence of galactomannan molecules in the isolated blood sample indicates aspergillosis because this sugar molecule is produced by the fungus.

  • Culture Test- The phlegm with blood streaks is obtained from the patient. It is sent to the lab for a culture test. The proliferation and growth of the fungi can be detected using this test.

  • Biopsy- If the major portion of the lungs and the air passages or bronchial tubes are affected, then a biopsy test is done. A portion of affected tissue due to the fungal infection in the lungs is collected using a special tool. Then it is examined under a microscope for the growth of fungal infection.

  • Chest X-Ray- The presence of white spots in the lungs during radiographic examination indicates the presence of aspergillosis. It is also used to detect the spread of fungal infection to hard tissue like ribs.

  • CT Scan (Computed Tomography)- The CT scan (computed tomography) is used to obtain detailed information about the lungs affected by aspergillosis. This diagnostic measure is useful in determining the extent of fungal infection. It is also used to identify mucus plugs due to the accumulation of fungal cells in the lungs.

How Is Aspergillosis Treated?

The fungal infection is treated using the following methods;

  • Medications- A mild form of aspergillosis can be treated with medication. Antifungal drugs are prescribed by medical professionals to treat aspergillosis. The most commonly used drug to treat aspergillosis is Voriconazole. It is available in oral or intravenous form. For the allergic type of aspergillosis, immunosuppressants are prescribed to suppress the immune reaction. Prednisone is prescribed for allergic aspergillosis. It is given as a combination drug along with antifungal drugs.

  • Surgery- Severe fungal infection requires a surgical approach to prevent further spread. If the fungal infection involves the heart, it results in inflammation. This condition is called endocarditis. These patients have severely infected heart valves. So the impaired valves are surgically replaced.

Conclusion

Aspergillosis is not a contagious infection. It cannot spread from one person to the other. But can spread through molds or even dried leaves. The immunosuppressive individuals must stay away from construction sites or decay to avoid allergic aspergillosis. This type of aspergillosis recovers at a faster rate with the help of medication. The invasive type of aspergillosis is the most severe form and requires medical attention immediately. Always wear a mask to avoid exposure to the aspergillus fungus. Contact a medical professional if a person is exposed to molds because earlier treatment of the fungal infection can save the individual from life-threatening diseases like respiratory failure and endocarditis. The aspergillus infection has a high recurrence rate and requires regular follow-up. However, the recovery from aspergillus infection depends on the immune status of the individual.

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Dr. Shubadeep Debabrata Sinha
Dr. Shubadeep Debabrata Sinha

Infectious Diseases

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