Infectious diseases caused by the fungus Aspergillus are called aspergillosis. The severity of aspergillosis is determined by various factors, but one of the most important is a weakened immune system. Infections can effect any area of the body, but by far the most common are the lungs and sinuses.
There are three distinct groups of people who have aspergillosis:
1) Those who have a healthy immune system. These tend to have long lasting, slow growing infections such as aspergilloma, chronic pulmonary aspergillosis (CPA) and allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis (ABPA). These people tend to have this infection for life but it can be managed with either surgery or other antifungal treatments.
Other types of non-invasive aspergillosis include fungal sinusitis which incorporates allergic fungal rhinosinusitis and saprophytic sinusitis (fungal ball in the sinuses), otomycosis (ear infection), keratitis (eye infection) and onychomycosis (nail infection). These are usually non-invasive and quite readily curable.
2) Those people who have a severely damaged or non-existent immune system. There are several types of acute invasive aspergillosis, names depending on the organ affected. This type of infection occurs mainly when the patient is severely immunocompromised e.g. during treatment for some types of leukemia or some patients who have received a transplant. In people with particularly poor immune systems, the fungus can transfer from the lung through the blood stream to the brain or to other organs, including the eye, the heart, the kidneys and the skin. This can be a very dangerous infection if not managed promptly and effectively, but it is treatable if diagnosed in time. (IA)
3) Those people who suffer from pre-existing illnesses that predispose them to infection e.g. Chronic Granulomatous Disorder, Cystic Fibrosis.
Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment
These are very different and depend on which type of aspergillosis the patient is suffering from. We have set out a series of reference pages to cover each different type of aspergillosis - see the list on the right hand side of this page.