- Sources of Aspergillosis
- Aspergillus fumigatus
- Description and significance
- Genome structure
- Cell structure and metabolism
- Current Research
- Aspergillus fumigatus and Aspergillosis in 2019
- Media Blog
- Species of Aspergillus which have been verified as dangerous to humans include:
Sources of Aspergillosis
Photomicrograph of Aspergillus fumigatus
Aspergillus lives in the environment
Aspergillus, the mold (a type of fungus) that causes aspergillosis, is very common both indoors and outdoors, so most people breathe in fungal spores every day. It’s probably impossible to completely avoid breathing in some Aspergillus spores. For people with healthy immune systems, breathing in Aspergillus isn’t harmful. However, for people who have weakened immune systems, breathing in Aspergillus spores can cause an infection in the lungs or sinuses which can spread to other parts of the body.
I’m worried that the mold in my home is Aspergillus. Should someone test the mold to find out what it is?
No. Generally, it’s not necessary to identify the species of mold growing in a home, and CDC doesn’t recommend routine sampling for molds. For more information about indoor mold, including cleanup and remediation recommendations, please visit CDC’s Basic Facts about Mold web page.
Types of Aspergillus
There are approximately 180 species of Aspergillus, but fewer than 40 of them are known to cause infections in humans. Aspergillus fumigatus is the most common cause of human Aspergillus infections. Other common species include A. flavus, A. terreus, and A. niger.
Next: Learn about diagnosis and testing for Aspergillosis >
A Microbial Biorealm page on the genus Aspergillus fumigatus
Higher order taxa
Eukaryota; Fungi; Dikarya; Ascomycota; Pezizomycotina; Eurotiomycetes; Eurotiomycetidae; Eurotiales; Trichocomaceae; mitosporic Trichocomaceae; Aspergillus
Description and significance
Aspergillus fumigatus is a filamentous fungus that can be found worldwide. It is considered an airborne saprophytic fungi. Because of this, it naturally lives in the soil and is a common mould found among compost and plant surfaces. Here it plays a key role in recycling the carbon and nitrogen from deceased organisms. Its conidia can be taken up with the wind and float through the air. It is estimated that there are approximately ten conidia found within every cubic meter of air (2).
Aspergillus fumigatus is also considered to be an opportunistic pathogen to immunocompromised individuals (1). Within recent years, this has become a point of interest as more medical strategies have involved the use of immunosuppressive therapies. This has lead to an increase in Aspergillus fumigates related illnesses, also known as Aspergillosis (1). The fungi gains access to an individual through the respiratory tract and can lead to various allergies and diseases of varying severity up to and including death. When infected, mortality rates are estimated up to 50% (1). Currently treatments consist of antifungal medications and remain relatively ineffective (8). Sequencing of the fungus was completed in 2005 with the use of the clinically isolated strain Af293 (8). With this, attention has been moved in understanding the life cycle and metabolic systems present in the species in order to develop a successful form of treatment.
The isolated strain of Af293 was found to consist of a haploid 29.4-megabase genome. The sequence consists of eight chromosomes consisting of 9,926 genes (8). Found within the genome were sets of temperature dependent gene sets that allow it to survive in varying temperatures up to 70 C, temperatures characteristic of compost piles. At varying temperatures, including those found in the human body and topical soil, there has shown to be different gene expression patterns with comparable numbers of genes being differentially expressed (3).
Also found within the genome were genes previously known for being involved in sexual reproduction, hinting at a recent evolutionary history of sexual reproduction in a fungus previously thought to reproduce asexually (5). Evidence for sexual reproduction was found in the two mating types Mat-2 and Mat-1, each showing expression during mycelial growth at the RNA level of α pheromone precursors and receptors (2). Precursors were found to have a higher expression within Mat-1 (5). The fungi’s source of virulence is found within 26 clusters, all consisting of polyketide synthase and non-ribosomal peptide synthase genes. These clusters encode the secondary metabolites that aid in virulence (8).
Cell structure and metabolism
Aspergillus fumigatus is known to be a producer of various proteinases that are thought to aid in virulence, however their roles in doing so are largely unknown (4). They are thought to be able to break down barriers within the host to allow for entry. Evidence of this is found in the ability of proteinases secreted by the fungus to hydrolyze pulmonary basal lamina (4). Three proteinases that have been able to be identified are an alkaline proteinase, a metalloproteinase, and an aspartic proteinase (4). Contrary to other common fungal pathogens, human serum does not inhibit Aspergillus fumigatus from growing or secreting these proteinases. It has actually shown to stimulate growth and secretion by up to 80%. It is possible that the fungus uses the serum as a nutrient source, a topic of current research (4).
Also contrary to other fungal pathogens, this particular species does not use lipids and fatty acids as its primary carbon source during growth. It is currently thought, and being researched, that proteins from host tissue likely represent a major carbon source during growth (7).
Aspergillus fumigatus is found predominately in the soil. It is a saprophytic fungi that breaks down carbon and nitrogen from deceased hosts and plays a key role in compost piles (1). In the conidia form however, it can become airborne in the atmosphere and gain access to other hosts, including that of the human body.
As stated earlier, Aspergillus fumigatus is one of the most common of the genus Aspergillus to cause disease within immunocompromised individuals. The infections can range from allergies to life-threatening infections. It is an opportunistic fungus that enters the body through the lungs, and in individuals with suppressed immune systems can quickly spread to the blood stream, brain, and the rest of the body. Three of the most severe of the infections, also known as Aspergillosis, include Allergic Bronchopulmonary Aspergillosis, Aspergilloma, and Invasive Aspergillosis or IA. IA is known to have approximately three thousand cases a year with a mortality rate above 50% (1). In recent years, there has been an increase in Aspergillosis cases as a result of an increase in the use of immunosuppressive therapies. Those at risk include bone marrow recipients, organ transplant patients, cancer patients, and AIDS patients (4). Often diagnosis is difficult and occurs late. This is because of the fairly common symptoms of fever and respiratory problems (cough, chest pain, breathlessness, etc) that do not respond to antibiotics. Diagnosis is then often made via x-rays and blood tests. Current treatment with antifungal drugs shows limited effectiveness.
Infection occurs when conidia that are released into the atmosphere enter the lungs. It is estimated that several hundred conidia are inhaled by an individual throughout the day. In most cases the immune system is able to fight off advances (1). However in immunocompromised individuals, it is thought the conidia gain entrance into the body by secreting proteinases able to break down barriers found in the lungs. As mentioned earlier, three proteinases have been identified that aid in the virulence of the fungus; however strains lacking any number of these proteinases still maintained levels of virulence (4).
1.Using a isocitrate lyase mutant, it was shown that Aspergillus fumigatus does not require fatty acid metabolism to develop and subsequently cause Aspergillosis within its host. As a result of this, research continues to find the carbon source that is used to aid in the fungi’s developments. Currently research is being done to test the hypothesis that carbon is retrieved from proteins released from the host’s tissue (7).
2.Because of its environment Aspergillus fumigatus it is often exposed to fluctations in pH and temperature, as well as reactive oxygen species. Current research has focused on how the fungus deals with this. A stress response regulated by cAMP-dependent protein kinase (PKA) plays a role in regulating the growth and virulence of the fungus. It has been shown in experiments that mutants for the regulatory subunit of PKA are more susceptible to oxidative damage and abnormalities in the conidia, hindering its ability to become airborne and taken in by individuals(6).
3.A current research study has attempted to further explain how Aspergillus fumigatus gains access into the body via the lungs. In this study, the interaction between the conidia and the alveolar macrophage was looked at. It was found that the conidia are able to inhibit caspase 3 by an unknown mechanism, thereby inhibiting host cell apoptosis of alveolar macrophages (9).
1.Latge, Jean-Paul. Aspergillus Fumigatus and Aspergillosis. Clin Microbial Rev. 12, 310-350 (1999).
2.Gow, Neil A.R. Fungal Genomics: Forensic Evidence of Sexual Activity. Current Biology, Vol. 15, pR509-R511 (2005).
3.Arnaud Firon, François Villalba, Roland Beffa, and Christophe d’Enfert. Identification of Essential Genes in the Human Fungal Pathogen Aspergillus fumigatus by Transposon Mutagenesis. Eukaryot Cell. April 2(2), pg 247-255 (2003).
5.Paoletti, Mathieu et al. Evidence for Sexuality in the Opportunistic Fungal Pathogen Aspergillus fumigatus. Current Biology 15(13) pg 1242-1248 (2005).
6.Zhao, Wei et al. Deletion of the Regulatory Subunit of Protein Kinase A in Aspergillus fumigatus Alters Morphology, Sensitivity to Oxidative Damage, and Virulence. Infection and Immunity 74(8), pg 4865-4874 (2006).
7.Schöbel, Felicitas et al. Aspergillus fumigatus Does Not Require Fatty Acid Metabolism via Isocitrate Lyase for Development of Invasive Aspergillosis. Infection and Immunity 75(3), pg 1237-1244 (2007).
8.Nierman, William C. et al. Genomic sequence of the pathogenic and allergenic filamentous fungus Aspergillus fumigatus. Nature 438(22), pg 1152-1156 (2005).
9.Katrin Volling, Axel A. Brakhage, Hans Peter Saluz. Apoptosis inhibition of alveolar macrophages upon interaction with conidia of Aspergillus fumigatus. FEMS Microbiology Letters (Online Early Articles) Aug. 20, 2007.
Edited by Paul Schaefer, student of Rachel Larsen
Aspergillus fumigatus and Aspergillosis in 2019
Aspergillus fumigatus is a saprotrophic fungus; its primary habitat is the soil. In its ecological niche, the fungus has learned how to adapt and proliferate in hostile environments. This capacity has helped the fungus to resist and survive against human host defenses and, further, to be responsible for one of the most devastating lung infections in terms of morbidity and mortality. In this review, we will provide (i) a description of the biological cycle of A. fumigatus; (ii) a historical perspective of the spectrum of aspergillus disease and the current epidemiological status of these infections; (iii) an analysis of the modes of immune response against Aspergillus in immunocompetent and immunocompromised patients; (iv) an understanding of the pathways responsible for fungal virulence and their host molecular targets, with a specific focus on the cell wall; (v) the current status of the diagnosis of different clinical syndromes; and (vi) an overview of the available antifungal armamentarium and the therapeutic strategies in the clinical context. In addition, the emergence of new concepts, such as nutritional immunity and the integration and rewiring of multiple fungal metabolic activities occurring during lung invasion, has helped us to redefine the opportunistic pathogenesis of A. fumigatus.
An infection that’s caused by an Aspergillus species of fungus is referred to as aspergillosis.
A. fumigatus is one of the most common causes of aspergillosis. It’s important to note that other Aspergillus species can also infect people. These species can include A. flavus, A. niger, and A. terreus.
There are several different types of aspergillosis, including:
Allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis
This condition is an allergic reaction to the Aspergillus spores. This reaction can lead to damage in your airways and lungs. It’s often found in people that have conditions such as asthma and cystic fibrosis.
Symptoms can include:
- general feelings of illness or discomfort
- coughing up brown plugs of mucus or mucus that contains blood
People with asthma may also notice that their asthma symptoms begin to worsen. This can include an increase in shortness of breath or wheezing.
Chronic pulmonary aspergillosis
Chronic pulmonary aspergillosis develops progressively. It can occur in people with chronic lung conditions that cause air spaces called cavities to form in the lung. Examples of such conditions include tuberculosis and emphysema.
Chronic pulmonary aspergillosis can manifest in several ways, which can include:
- small spots of Aspergillus infection in the lungs, called nodules
- tangled balls of fungus within a lung cavity, called aspergillomas (these can sometimes cause complications such as bleeding in the lungs)
- more widespread infection of multiple lung cavities, which may or may not contain aspergillomas
When left untreated, widespread infection can lead to thickening and scarring of lung tissue, which can lead to loss of lung function.
People with chronic pulmonary aspergillosis may develop the following symptoms:
- cough, which may include coughing up blood
- shortness of breath
- feelings of fatigue
- general feelings of illness or discomfort
- unexplained weight loss
- night sweats
Invasive aspergillosis is the most severe form of aspergillosis and can be fatal if not treated. It occurs when an aspergillosis infection begins in the lungs and spreads to other parts of your body, such as your skin, brain, or kidneys. Invasive aspergillosis occurs only in people who have a severely weakened immune system.
The symptoms of invasive aspergillosis can include:
- cough, which can include coughing up blood
- shortness of breath
- chest pain, which can be worse when you take deep breaths
When the infection spreads outside of the lungs, symptoms can depend on what part of the body is affected, but can include:
- swollen eyes
- joint pain
- lesions on the skin
- difficulties with speech
What is aspergillosis?
Aspergillosis is an infection or allergic reaction caused by various kinds of mold (a type of fungus). Mold is often found outdoors on plants, soil, or rotting vegetable matter. Mold can also grow indoors on household dust, food items such as ground spices, and building materials. Aspergillus fumigatus is the type of mold that is most likely to cause aspergillosis in certain people when they inhale (breathe in) its spores.
Who gets aspergillosis?
Exposure to Aspergillus is not likely to cause problems in the majority of people whose immune systems are healthy. However, people with chronic lung problems or people with weak immune systems may be at greater risk for developing the infection. People with weakened immune systems include those people taking chemotherapy or those who have had organ transplants.
Is there more than one type of aspergillosis?
There are several types of aspergillosis.
Pulmonary aspergillosis is most likely to develop in people who have chronic lung disorders or damaged lungs. These people are likely to have abnormal spaces in their lungs where the fungus can grow. The fungus can also rarely infect sinuses and ear canals. The mold spores can colonize (grow) inside lung cavities that developed as a result of chronic diseases, such tuberculosis, emphysema, or advanced sarcoidosis. The fibers of fungus might form a lump by combining with white blood cells and blood clots. This lump or ball of fungus is called an aspergilloma or mycetoma. In some cases, a fungus ball may be present in other organs of the body.
Invasive aspergillosis, the most severe type, occurs when the infection travels from the lungs into the bloodstream. Other organs, such as the kidneys, liver, skin or brain, may become infected. This is a very serious condition that may result in death if not treated. People with very weakened immune systems are more susceptible to invasive aspergillosis. Other risk factors include a low white blood cell count, long-term use ofcorticosteroids, or hospitalization.
Allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis (ABPA) is an allergic reaction that happens to some people after exposure to Aspergillus fungus. The fungus causes inflammation in the lungs and air passages. ABPA is more common in people with cystic fibrosis, bronchiectasis and/or asthma because they tend to have more mucus in their airways. Although it is unclear exactly why the allergic reaction occurs, the mucus in their airways may provide a good environment for the mold to grow. Unfortunately, the allergic reaction may produce symptoms similar to those associated with asthma, including wheezing, coughing and difficulty with breathing.
How common is aspergillosis?
It is estimated that up to 10% of people with cystic fibrosis or asthma experience an allergic reaction to aspergillus. ABPA is estimated to occur in about 2% of all asthmatics and in 2-15% of patients with cystic fibrosis.
What causes aspergillosis?
In most cases, aspergillosis is caused by a type of mold called Aspergillus fumigatus. Aspergillus mold can often be found on dead leaves, compost piles and other decaying vegetable matter, stored grain, and even foods and spices. The mold spores may be carried indoors on shoes and clothing and can grow on carpeting. Window unit air conditioners are susceptible to mold growth if filters are not kept clean, and water does not drain properly from the unit. Sites where buildings are being torn down or renovated may be contaminated with mold spores.
What are the symptoms of aspergillosis?
Symptoms can range from mild to severe, depending on the type of aspergillosis.
Pulmonary aspergillosis might not cause any symptoms, especially in the early stages. If the disease progresses, symptoms may include:
- Coughing, sometimes accompanied by mucus or blood.
- Chest pain.
- Difficulty breathing.
Symptoms of invasive aspergillosis may include:
- Breathing difficulties, such as shortness of breath.
- Kidney or liver failure.
- Bloody cough or massive bleeding from the lungs.
Allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis may cause:
- Coughing accompanied by mucus or blood.
- Wheezing or worsening of asthma.
- Increased mucus or sputum secretions.
- Inability to tolerate exercise or asthma brought on by exercise.
Many patients with asthma or cystic fibrosis already experience respiratory symptoms similar to those caused by an allergic reaction, so it may be difficult to detect ABPA in these situations. Sometimes, a worsening of symptoms such as coughing and wheezing is the only sign that the person is experiencing an allergic reaction.
If the allergic reaction recurs over time, and the lungs become inflamed repeatedly, damage to the lungs and central airways can occur. Recurrent allergic reactions may cause scarring of lung tissue and widening of the central airways, a condition known as bronchiectasis.
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Out of all of the various genera of mold present on Earth, Aspergillus is both the most common and one of the most worrying. So far, over 200 different species of Aspergillus have been identified all around the world. Mold experts believe that Aspergillus molds are the most common type of fungi found in the natural environment. Though many of these species are either harmless or mildly allergenic, approximately 16 of them are known to pose a serious health risk to humans and have been linked to many cases of both chronic and acute disease and infection (Aspergillosis). According to MBL Labratories, Aspergillus is of particular concern in indoor environments due to its unique ability to penetrate deep into the lungs. “Many species of Aspergillus produce dry, hydrophobic spores that are easily inhaled. Due to their small size, about 70 % of spores of A. fumigatus are able to penetrate into the trachea and primary bronchi and close to 1 % into alveoli.”
Species of Aspergillus which have been verified as dangerous to humans include:
- Aspergillus clavatus
- Aspergillus flavus
- Aspergillus fumigatus
- Aspergillus glaucus
- Aspergillus nidulans
- Aspergillus niger
- Aspergillus oryzae
- Aspergillus terreus
- Aspergillus ustus
- Aspergillus versicolor
Many of the above species of Aspergillus are, fortunately, rare in indoor environments; however, several types—Aspergillus niger, Aspergillus flavus, Aspergillus fumigatus—are known to be common in residences and public buildings which provide the right conditions for their growth.
Aspergillus niger is incredibly prolific thanks to the fact that it can grow on a large variety of substances; indeed, most experts believe that Aspergillus niger is the most common form of Aspergillus in the world.Aspergillus niger has even been found in environments where there are few nutrients present. It is one of the most frequently-identified sources of “black mold”. Aspergillus niger is black in color, with a white or yellow layer beneath its surface, in indoor environments owing to its ability to flourish on damp walls and other surfaces. (It is not, however, the most dangerous of the infamous toxic black molds; that title belongs to the even more poisonous Stachybotrys chartarum.)
Though it is the most common household mold of concern, it is only the third most likely out of all types of Aspergillus to infect humans. However, that said, Aspergillus niger still leads to a significant number of serious infections each year. It is capable of forming fungal ball in the lungs of humans (like a handful of other varieties of Aspergillus) which continues to grow over time, causing a range of uncomfortable and dangerous symptoms.
Aspergillus flavus is best known for producing the carcinogenic mycotoxin “aflatoxin”; commonly occurring in nuts and cereal grains, consumption of this mycotoxic mold has been directly linked to the development of liver cancer in humans and other mammals. However, Aspergillus flavus is also a risk when inhaled via indoor air as it can cause serious Aspergillosis infections (and it is second only to Aspergillus fumigatus in its ability to infiltrate the lungs of humans).Aspergillus flavus has a yellow-green surface with a gold or red-brown layer underneath.
The most virulent strain of Aspergillus, Aspergillus fumigatus causes more cases of infection in humans than any other Aspergillus species. In addition to the risk of Aspergillosis, Aspergillus fumigatus has also been linked to especially severe allergic reactions: People who are regularly exposed to Aspergillus fumigatus often become hypersensitive to this strain of mold and may therefore experience crippling allergy symptoms.
Aspergillus fumigatus tends to prefer an environment where decomposing organic material is present, but aside from that criteria, it is a hardy and adaptable species which is noted for its tolerance of extreme temperatures: Aspergillus fumigatus and can grow in temperatures ranging anywhere from 20 degrees Celsius to 55 degrees Celsius.
Though mold-related illness is often associated with “black mold” thanks to the commonness of Aspergillus niger and the extreme illness caused by Stachybotrys, this most potent of all Aspergillus species is actually a blue-green (or slightly grey) mold with a white or tan under-layer. (Aspergillus fumigatus is therefore a perfect example of why it’s important to treat any kind of mold found indoors as a serious issue, regardless of its color, and have an inspection conducted immediately.)
Understanding Aspergillus-Related Illness
Because of the prevalence of Aspergillus in the natural environment, most people are constantly exposed to trace amounts of Aspergillus spores; however, this is seldom a problem in outdoor environments as spores are too sparse to create an established infestation in the lungs.However, when harmful varieties of Aspergillus enter the indoor environment, this can change very rapidly: Trapped within the confines of the home and spread around by indoor ventilation systems, Aspergillus spores become dense and therefore potent enough to cause serious harm.
When present in indoor environments, Aspergillus can cause the following issues:
Allergic reactions: Like many types of mold, Aspergillus is strongly associated with allergenic symptoms such as:
- Sore or irritated throat
- Runny and/or congested nose
- Sinus congestion
- Wheezing and shortness of breath
- Hives and other rashes
- Watery, itchy, and bloodshot eyes
Certain strains of Aspergillus can also cause life-threatening allergic reactions (usually after chronic exposure), resulting in serious breathing difficulties and lung damage. These molds are also very dangerous to asthmatic individuals; people with asthma have been found to be particularly sensitive to Aspergillus spores.
Some species of Aspergillus produce mycotoxins, such as the aforementioned aflatoxin (associated with Aspergillus flavus), usually as a reaction to triggers in their environment. Mycotoxins have both acute effects (e.g. risk of miscarriage) and chronic implications, the most worrying of which for many people is cancer: Many mycotoxins are highly carcinogenic. Mycotoxins also cause long-term, irreversible neurological and immunological damage. Though scientists have been able to define how much mycotoxin a human can ingest before increasing his or her risk of illness, there is currently no known “safe” limit for airborne mycotoxin exposure.
According to mold authority Mold Help.org, indoor air is an excellent conduit for mycotoxin transport: “Mycotoxins are examples of chemical substances that molds create generally as secondary metabolites, thought to possibly play a role in either helping to prepare the substrate on which they exist for digestion, as defense mechanisms, and some have suggested that they may be produced when the organisms are under stress, which could be related to competition/defense, or simply due to inhospitable environmental conditions. The mycotoxins, which are also neurotoxins (a toxin that is determined to cause neurological damage), most commonly reach people from the air, via spores from the molds in question. They are also found in small particulates at times which may often represent mold dust, small particles of mold that has dried and turned to dust.”
Infection from Aspergillus occurs when people and animals inhale a significant amount of spores, allowing the mold to begin to grow inside them (usually in the lungs). This kind of infection, called “Aspergillosis” primarily affects the young, the elderly, and immunocompromised individuals, but can potentially strike anyone exposed to a dense enough concentration of spores. The term “Aspergillosis” does not refer to one single type of disease, but rather to several distinct syndromes, including: Allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis, acute invasive aspergillosis, and disseminated invasive aspergillosis.
Allergic Bronchopulmonary Aspergillosis
Allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis (ABPA), which is most frequently caused by Aspergillus fumigatus, is not a true “infection” but rather a disease which occurs when a person’s immune system becomes hypersensitive to Aspergillus spores, producing a range of chronic respiratory symptoms, such as:
- Difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, and breathlessness
- Asthma attacks
- “Productive” coughing (coughing up mucus)
- Coughing up blood
- Sinusitis (infection or inflammation of the sinuses)
- Loss of appetite
- Tiredness and malaise
- Permanent lung damage (fibrosis)
Those with cystic fibrosis or asthma are particularly vulnerable to allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis; as many as 5% of all asthmatics will suffer this disease at some point in their life.
If you suspect you have allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis, you will need to have tests conducted (x-rays, skin tests or blood tests) and have your home tested for mold. If you are diagnosed, you will be treated with steroids (to be taken orally or via nasal spray) and/or an antifungal drug known as itraconazole. However, only complete professional removal of the mold in your home can truly alleviate this condition.
Invasive Aspergillosis and Aspergillomas
This disease is a true infection caused by Aspergillus spores entering the body and growing in existing cavities in the lungs (resulting from illnesses like tuberculosis and other damage). Once the Aspergillus spores have gained a foothold in the lungs, they grow into a fungal ball (called an aspergilloma or mycetoma) which then dispenses toxins and allergens directly into the person’s body. Often Aspergilloma is asymptomatic at first, but once the fungal ball or balls have begun to grow it typically causes symptoms such as:
- Breathing difficulties
- Chronic coughing
- Coughing up blood
- Weight loss
After an Aspergilloma has been diagnosed (usually through x-rays or blood tests), it will be treated either through medication (such as itraconazole or voriconazole) or surgery. Once again, however, the only way to truly treat this illness and to prevent it from reoccurring is to have one’s home cleansed of all mold.
Locating and Identifying Aspergillus
Though only a lab test can truly verify the identity any variety of mold, you can suspect that a mold is from the Aspergillus genus if it has a powdery texture and an extremely high growth rate. According to the website Blackmold, “After one week of growth at around 25 degrees Celsius an Aspergillus colony will generally be 1-9 cm in diameter, however Aspergillus glaucus and Aspergillus nidulans grow more slowly and will generally be 0.5-1 cm after the same time.”
Because Aspergillus molds can thrive anywhere there is oxygen and moisture, they can potentially be found throughout the home; however, it should be noted that they have a particular preference for carbon-rich materials such as fabric and building materials. Also, you should keep in mind that some types of Aspergillus can survive even where there is very little moisture (these are known as xerophilic molds), so depending on the climate where you live, the humidity in the air may be enough to sustain an Aspergillus infestation without the presence of obvious moisture sources (e.g. a leaky roof or damp basement).
Aspergillus is often found growing in compost heaps, on houseplants, and in stored starchy food; it also has a noted preference for air conditioners and indoor ventilation systems (making it a particular concern in hospitals and office buildings, where it often flourishes). Damp walls, such as those damaged by flooding, also provide a haven for Aspergillus.
If you suspect that you have Aspergillus genus molds growing in your home, contact an indoor air quality expert immediately and have him or her conduct tests; due to the fact that some types of Aspergillus produce toxins which are capable of causing permanent damage to the body, it’s essential that you not wait or attempt to treat a suspected mold infestation yourself (this increases the risk of inhalation).
Aspergillus: Should It Worry You? http://www.moldbacteria.com/mold/aspergillus.html
Toxic Black Mold Symptoms, http://blackmold.awardspace.com/black-mold-toxic-stachybotrys-mycotoxins.html
Aspergillus flavus, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aspergillus_flavus
Toxic Black Mold Symptoms, http://blackmold.awardspace.com/black-mold-toxic-stachybotrys-mycotoxins.html
Mold, what is it all about? http://www.mold-help.org/
Mold Types And Causes
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Toxic mold contamination is a serious issue that may cause a variety of physical, emotional and financial hardships for many. Here are some frequently asked questions that may help you understand what toxic mold is, as well as how it may effect you and your family.
Mold is a fungus that exists both indoors and outdoors, but not all molds are toxic. Many are harmful, but only a few types of mold can cause potentially serious injury. Most simply cause symptoms similar to those of seasonal allergies. Some, however, can cause more serious illnesses, such as pulmonary edema, brain damage, and emphysema. In some case of prolonged exposure, death may result. The common indoor molds are Cladosporium, Aspergillus, Stachybotrys, Fusarium, Penicillium, and Alternaria.
Stachybotrys, or black mold, is commonly recognized as the most dangerous of the mold species Stachybotrys chartarum. Spores from this particular mold produce mycotoxins, which are toxic to humans if inhaled, eaten, or touched. Stachybotrys appears black and velvety or slimy, and is found in areas that have been exposed to standing water for a lengthy time period. It grows on materials that are rich in cellulose, such as sheet rock, wall paper, insulation, ceiling tiles, and wallpaper. Most of time when it is found indoors there has already been considerable water damage because it\’s gone unnoticed or ignored. This is because it is a type of mold that needs long periods of time with persistent and increased levels of moisture.
Cladosporium, Fusarium, Alternaria and Penicillium
All of these dangerous mold families can be found in soil, on dead plants, on cellulose rich materials such as sheet rock, insulation or fabric, on water-damaged carpets, humidifiers, and in grain—among other things. These types of mold are very dangerous if allowed to colonize in a home. Fusarium and Cladosporium can also grow in ductwork that is lined with fiberglass.
The most serious symptom of excessive Fusarium exposure is something called hemorrhagic syndrome, which can be extensive internal bleeding, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, and dermatitis. The can produce trichothecene toxins, which are dangerous to humans because they target alimentary, skin, circulatory, and nervous systems. They are the cause many times for outbreaks of acute gastrointestinal illness. They also produce Zearalenone, which is a type of mycotoxin produced by Fusarium, and is similar to the estrogen hormone and targets reproductive organs.
Penicillium can cause asthma, hypersensitivity pneumonitis, and allergic alveolitis. There are many different species, the most common of which are Penicillium chrysogenum, Penicillium citrinum, Penicillium janthinellum, Penicillium purpurogenum, and Penicillium marneffei. It is isolated from cases of people with pneumonia, ear infections, keratitis, endocarditis, peritonitis, and urinary tract infections. The infection may appear as papules that look like acne on extremities and the face and trunk. It also can product mycotoxins that can cause kidney and liver damage.
Aspergillus grows in the same type of environment as the other four mold families. It is the most common of the black mold group. It feeds on many of the same materials as the rest of the common indoor mold group. There are three categories of Aspergillus. The Aspergillus niger is the 3rd most common to be associated with disease, though it is the most common in nature because it can grow on a large variety of items. It can cause “fungal ball”, where the fungus multiplies quickly in the human lung while forming a ball, though it does not invade the lung tissue itself. The Aspergillus flavus is the 2nd most common fungi when it comes to cases of Aspergillus infection, which produces mycotoxin aflatoxin, the one of most potent carcinogen. The Aspergillus fumigatus is the most common species that causes infection, and can be seen in decomposing organic material. People who are exposed to it too much develop a hypersensitivity to the spores and can suffer from relentless allergic reactions.
All of these species are found naturally, either indoors or outdoors. To avoid contracting illness from any of these black molds, you must take precautions. Eliminate any standing water, and get rid of any old building materials and dead plants. Also, never try to test any mold. Call the local health department or a licensed professional if you suspect a mold problem.