What is aspergillosis?
Aspergillosis is a spectrum of diseases of humans and animals caused by members of the genus Aspergillus. Aspergillosis is a fungal disease of the respiratory tract of birds and mammals usually caused by Aspergillus fumigatus. A. flavus, A. niger, A. nidulans, A. terreus, A. glaucus and Penicillium sp. have also been identified as pathogenic. Aspergillosis was one of the first mycoses of birds to be identified, being first observed in a wild scaup duck in 1813. The disease usually
occurs either sporadically (chronic) or in an acute epizootic form.
Aspergillosis is primarily an infection of the lungs caused by the inhalation of airborne spores of the fungus Aspergillus. Spores are the small particles that most fungi use to reproduce. Although virtually everyone is exposed to this fungus in their daily environment, it rarely causes disease. In people with healthy immune systems, it usually causes mild or moderate lung problems. In people with suppressed immune systems, aspergillosis can cause serious lung problems and can also spread to other organs, including the kidneys, liver, skin, bones, and brain. Because these more severe forms of aspergillosis can be life threatening, it is important to diagnose and treat this infection quickly.
Aspergillosis has a worldwide distribution having been reported in almost all domestic mammals and birds and in numerous wild species. Aspergillus sp. organisms are capable of living both a saprophytic and parasitic way of life and susceptible hosts have numerous opportunities to contact this agent. Aspergillosis is rare among HIV-positive people, even more so now that combination anti-HIV therapy is available. It is most common among people who have neutropenia – a low level of neutrophils, a type of white blood cell. This type of immune suppression usually isn't seen in people with HIV. It usually occurs in patients being treated for cancer or with powerful immune-suppressing drugs after receiving an organ transplant.