Commonality is rare
Aspergillosis is a term referring to several types of infection by fungi of the genus Aspergillus.
Aspergillus spores are ubiquitous in the natural environment, and most people will be exposed to the fungi daily. Aspergillosis tends to occur in individuals whose immune systems are already compromised by a pre-existing disease.
Aspergillosis is primarily caused by inhalation of the Aspergillus spores, and can take several forms.
Pulmonary aspergillosis occurs when the spores invade and cause infection the airways of the lungs. A ball (aspergilloma) composed of tangled fungus, blood clots and cells gradually develops and grows, causing considerable damage to the lung as it does so. This can also occur within the sinuses or the ear canals.
Invasive aspergillosis involves the Aspergillus spores passing through the lungs into the bloodstream. Within the blood, it is transported to all of the organs, and can lead to organ failure.
In allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis, the fungi colonize the airways of patients with pre-existing respiratory illnesses, such as asthma or cystic fibrosis. The patients develop a serious allergy, characterised by coughing, wheezing and fever.