Aspergillosis is a condition caused by aspergillus mould. There are several different types of aspergillosis – most affect the lungs and cause breathing difficulties.
- Allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis (ABPA) – an allergy to aspergillus mould.
- Chronic pulmonary aspergillosis (CPA) – a long-term lung infection.
- Aspergilloma – a ball of mould in the lungs, often linked to CPA.
- Invasive pulmonary aspergillus (IPA) – a life-threatening infection in people with a weakened immune system.
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.
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
- Damp buildings
- Air conditioning systems
You can't catch aspergillosis from someone else or from animals.
Most people who breathe in the mould don't get ill
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
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
Chronic pulmonary aspergillosis (CPA) – a long-term lung infection
Long-term (possibly lifelong) treatment with antifungal tablets
Aspergilloma – a ball of mould in the lungs, often linked to CPA
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
Antifungal medicine given directly into a vein in hospital
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
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.
- 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 filters are best
- Dry your laundry in your bedroom or living areas, if possible – ideally dry it outside or in a tumble dryer