Introduction

Aspergillosis is a condition caused by aspergillus mould. There are several different types of aspergillosis - most afffect the lungs and cause breathing difficulties.

How do you get aspergillosis?

Aspergillosis is usually caused by inhaling tiny bits of mould. The mould is found in lots of places, including:

  • soil, compost and rotting leaves
  • plants, trees and crops
  • air conditioning systems
  • dust
  • damp buildings

You can catch aspergillosis from someone else or from animals.

Most people who breathe in the mould don't get ill.

Aspergillosis is rare in healthy people

You're usually only at risk of aspergillosis if you have:

  • a lung condition - such as asthma, cystic fibrosis or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • a weakened immune system - for example, if you've had an organ transplant or are having chemotherapy
  • had tuberculosis (TB) in the past

Symptoms of aspergillosis

Symptoms of aspergillosis include:

  • shortness of breath
  • a cough - you may cough up blood or lumps of mucus
  • wheezing (a whistling sound when breathing)
  • a high temperature of 38C or above
  • weight loss

If you already have a lung condition, your existing symptoms may get worse.

See a GP if you have:

  • a cough for more than 3 weeks
  • a lung condition that's getting worse or harder to control with your usual treatment
  • a weakened immune system and symptoms of aspergillosis

Get an urgent GP appointment if you cough up blood. Call 111 if you can't see your GP.

What happens at your appointment

Your GP will check for an obvious cause of your symptoms, like a chest infection or asthma.

If they're not sure what the problem is, they may refer you to a specialist for tests such as:

  • X-rays and scans
  • blood tests or tests on a sample of mucus
  • allergy tests
  • a bronchoscopy - where a thin, flexible tube with a camera at the end is used to look in your lungs

Treatments for aspergillosis

Treatment usually helps control the symptoms. If it isn't treated or well controlled, there's a risk it could damage your lungs.

Allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis (ABPA) - an allergy to aspergillus mould is treated with steroid medication and antifungal medication for a few months (possibly longer).

Chronic pulmonary aspergillosis (CPA) - a long-term lung infection. The treatment will be long-term (possibly lifelong) with antifungal tablets.

Aspergilloma - a ball of mould in the lungs, often linked to CPA, will be treated with surgery to remove the ball if it's causing symptoms.

Invasive pulmonary aspergillus (IPA) - a life-threatening infection in people with a weakened immune system, is treated with antifungal medicine given directly into a vein in hospital.

You can't always prevent aspergillosis

It's almost impossible to completely avoid aspergillus mould.

But there are things you can do to reduce your risk of aspergillosis, if you have a lung condition or weakened immune system.

Do:

  • try to avoid places where aspergillus mould is often found, such as compost heaps and piles of dead leaves
  • close your windows if there's construction work or digging outside
  • wear a face mask in dusty places
  • consider using an air purifier at home - devices with HEPA filters are best

Don't

  • dry your laundry in your bedroom or living areas, if possible - ideally dry it outside or in a tumble dryer

You can find out more about aspergillosis on the Support for People with Aspergillosis website.

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The information on this page has been adapted by NHS Wales from original content supplied by NHS Choices.
Last Updated: 18/09/2018 14:18:17