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This section of the website is for UK healthcare professionals only. If you are not a healthcare professional, please click here.

This section of the website is for members of the public. If you are a healthcare professional, visit the HCP section of the site. This website is not intended to replace the advice of a healthcare professional. You should consult your doctor or another suitably trained healthcare provider when considering what type of treatment is most appropriate for you.


What is Aspergillosis?

Aspergillosis is the name of a group of fungal conditions caused by a mould called aspergillus. It usually affects the respiratory system (windpipe, sinuses and lungs) and causes wheezing and coughing, but it can spread to anywhere in the body. Aspergillosis can usually be treated with medication, but in a few cases it's very serious and potentially life-threatening.1

How do you get aspergillosis?

You can get aspergillosis if you inhale tiny particles of the aspergillus mould that hang in the air. The mould is found in many different places, but it's particularly common in:

  • rotting leaves and compost
  • plants, trees and crops
  • air conditioning and heating systems
  • insulation material
  • dust

In most people, inhaling aspergillus particles isn't a problem, because your immune system quickly destroys them. However, aspergillosis can develop if you have a pre-existing lung condition, such as asthma or cystic fibrosis, or if you have a weakened immune system.

Aspergillosis isn't contagious, so it can't be passed from person to person.1

Symptoms of aspergillosis

The symptoms of aspergillosis vary. General symptoms can include:

  • shortness of breath
  • a persistent cough
  • coughing up mucus or coughing up blood
  • fatigue
  • weight loss
  • a high temperature

Contact your doctor if you develop severe or persistent symptoms of aspergillosis, particularly if you have a weak immune system. There are several tests that can lead to a diagnosis.1

Invasive pulmonary aspergillosis

Invasive pulmonary aspergillosis (IPA) usually only affects people with a weak immune system, such as people who have received a bone marrow transplant or cancer treatment, or those with HIV or AIDS. It's the most serious type of aspergillosis.

If you have IPA, it's likely you'll have a raised temperature as well as lung symptoms, such as a cough, chest pain or breathlessness. In IPA, the aspergillus mould can spread through the bloodstream from the lungs to the brain, eyes, heart or kidneys. This is very serious and can be life-threatening if it's not treated quickly.

IPA is estimated to affect up to one in every four people who've had a bone marrow transplant, a heart or lung transplant, or high-dose chemotherapy for leukaemia (cancer of the blood cells).1

References

  1. Aspergillosis, http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Aspergillosis/Pages/Introduction.aspx last accessed 05/01/17

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