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Aspergillosis

Aspergillus infection

Aspergillosis is an infection or allergic response due to the aspergillus fungus.

Images

Aspergilloma
Pulmonary aspergillosis
Aspergillosis - chest X-ray

Causes

Aspergillosis is caused by a fungus called aspergillus. The fungus is often found growing on dead leaves, stored grain, compost piles, or in other decaying vegetation. It can also be found on marijuana leaves.

Although most people are often exposed to aspergillus, infections caused by the fungus rarely occur in people who have a healthy immune system.

There are several forms of aspergillosis:

Symptoms

Symptoms depend on the type of infection.

Symptoms of allergic pulmonary aspergillosis may include:

Other symptoms depend on the part of the body affected, and may include:

Exams and Tests

The health care provider will perform a physical examination and ask about the symptoms.

Tests to diagnose aspergillus infection include:

Treatment

A fungus ball is usually not treated with antifungal medicines unless there is bleeding into the lung tissue. In such a case, surgery and medicines are needed.

Invasive aspergillosis is treated with several weeks of an antifungal medicine. It can be given by mouth or IV (into a vein). Endocarditis caused by aspergillus is treated by surgically replacing the infected heart valves. Long-term antifungal drugs are also needed.

Allergic aspergillosis is treated with drugs that suppress the immune system (immunosuppressive drugs), such as prednisone.

Outlook (Prognosis)

With treatment, people with allergic aspergillosis usually get better over time. It is common for the disease to come back (relapse) and need repeat treatment.

If invasive aspergillosis does not get better with drug treatment, it eventually leads to death. The outlook for invasive aspergillosis also depends on the person's underlying disease and immune system health.

Possible Complications

Health problems from the disease or treatment include:

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your provider if you develop symptoms of aspergillosis or if you have a weakened immune system and develop a fever.

Prevention

Precautions should be taken when using medicines that suppress the immune system.

Related Information

Allergies
Asthma
Pulmonary tuberculosis
Aspiration pneumonia
Pulmonary aspergilloma
Invasive
Community-acquired pneumonia in adults
Blindness and vision loss
Immunodeficiency disorders
Cancer
HIV/AIDS
Chemotherapy

References

Patterson TF. Aspergillus species. In: Bennett JE, Dolin R, Blaser MJ, eds. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases, Updated Edition. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 259.

Walsh TJ. Aspergillosis. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 339.

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Review Date: 5/10/2019  

Reviewed By: Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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