What Is Aspergillus Fungus?

Aspergillus is a mold found throughout nature. It is considered to be an opportunistic pathogen in people. It is one of the most common fungi found in patient's samples as the cause of disease.

  1. Environmental Sources

    • The spores of Aspergillus may be increased where there is dust like around construction areas. The fungus is also found in soil and decaying vegetative matter. Hospital-acquired aspergillosis can be due to shaking out contaminated clothing and bedding and when cleaning up accumulated dirt and dust on floors. These actions can produce bursts of spores that spread through the air.

    Opportunistic pathogen

    • According to Martha Kerns, M.D., an opportunistic pathogen is a microorganism that is not normally disease producing. To get infected, the host usually is debilitated from medication or some health problem.

    Who Is at Risk?

    • Since Aspergillus is a opportunistic pathogen, typically people with some underlying condition are most at risk of disease. People with asthma or that are immunocompromised by cancer therapy, immunosuppressive drugs and corticosteroids are most likely to get severe, disseminated disease from Aspergillus.

    Disease

    • Disease caused by Aspergillus species is usually acquired by inhalation of conidia (spores). It usually starts as a pulmonary disease where it produces lesion in the lungs. More serious disease happens if the fungus spreads from the lungs and disseminates via the bloodstream. Disseminated disease is usually acute and fatal. Ear infections and fungus balls (abscess) are common presentations of aspergillosis.

    Diagnosis and Treatment

    • A variety of medical procedures may be used to diagnose aspergillosis. Different imaging techniques like chest X-rays and CT scans may be used to see abnormalities in the lungs.

      Laboratory diagnosis consists of culturing the sample on microbiological media and growing the fungus so it can be identified.

      Various anti-fungal medications are available to treat serious aspergillus disease.

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References

  • Medical Mycology: a Self-instructional Text; Martha Kerns, M.D.; 1997
  • CDC: Aspergillosis

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