Aspergillosis – The Deadly Facts

Aspergillosis – The Deadly Facts

Because aspergillosis is not a reportable infection in North America, the exact number of cases is difficult to determine. Milder, allergic forms of aspergillosis are more common than the invasive form of the infection.

Invasive aspergillosis is uncommon and occurs primarily in immunocompromised people. The first population-based incidence estimates for invasive aspergillosis were obtained from laboratory surveillance conducted in the San Francisco Bay Area during 1992-1993 and suggested a yearly rate of 1 to 2 cases of aspergillosis per 100,000 population. However, the epidemiology of invasive Aspergillus infections has likely shifted since this time due to the increasing number of solid organ and stem cell transplant recipients and newer immunosuppressive agents.

Although most cases of aspergillosis are sporadic (not part of an outbreak), outbreaks of invasive aspergillosis occasionally occur in hospitalized patients. Invasive aspergillosis outbreaks are often found to be associated with hospital construction or renovation, which can increase the amount of airborne Aspergillus, resulting in respiratory infections or surgical site infections in high-risk patients. Outbreaks of primary cutaneous aspergillosis and central nervous system aspergillosis in association with the use of contaminated medical devices have also been described. The incubation period for aspergillosis is unclear and likely varies depending on the dose of Aspergillus and the host immune response.

Allergic forms of aspergillosis such as allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis (ABPA) and allergic Aspergillus sinusitis are generally not life-threatening.

In contrast, although invasive aspergillosis is uncommon, it is a serious infection and can be a major cause of mortality in immunocompromised patients. For example, a large prospective study found that the one-year survival for people who had invasive aspergillosis was 59% among solid organ transplant recipients and 25% among stem cell transplant recipients.

Who gets aspergillosis?
The different types of aspergillosis affect different groups of people.

  • Allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis (ABPA) most often occurs in people who have cystic fibrosis or asthma.
  • Aspergillomas usually affect people who have other lung diseases like tuberculosis.
  • Chronic pulmonary aspergillosis typically occurs in people who have other lung diseases, including tuberculosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), or sarcoidosis.
  • Invasive aspergillosis affects people who have weakened immune systems, such as people who have had a stem cell transplant or organ transplant, are getting chemotherapy for cancer, or are taking high doses of corticosteroids.

How does someone get aspergillosis?
People can get aspergillosis by breathing in microscopic Aspergillus spores from the environment. Most people breathe in Aspergillus spores every day without getting sick. However, people with weakened immune systems or lung diseases are at a higher risk of developing health problems due to Aspergillus.

How can I prevent aspergillosis?
It’s difficult to avoid breathing in  Aspergillus spores because the fungus is common in the environment. For people who have weakened immune systems, there may be some ways to lower the chances of developing a severe Aspergillus infection.

  • Protect yourself from the environment. Try to avoid areas with a lot of dust like construction or excavation sites. If you can’t avoid these areas, wear an N95 respirator (a type of face mask) while you’re there. Click here for more information about respirators.
    • Avoid activities that involve close contact to soil or dust, such as yard work or gardening. If this isn’t possible,
      • Wear shoes, long pants, and a long-sleeved shirt when doing outdoor activities such as gardening, yard work, or visiting wooded areas.
      • Wear gloves when handling materials such as soil, moss, or manure.
    • To reduce the chances of developing a skin infection, clean skin injuries well with soap and water, especially if they have been exposed to soil or dust.
      It’s important to note that although these actions are recommended, they haven’t been proven to prevent aspergillosis.
  • Antifungal medication. If you are at high risk for developing invasive aspergillosis (for example, if you’ve had an organ transplant or a stem cell transplant), your healthcare provider may prescribe medication to prevent aspergillosis. Scientists are still learning about which transplant patients are at highest risk and how to best prevent fungal infections.
  • Testing for early infection. Some high-risk patients may benefit from blood tests to detect invasive aspergillosis. Talk to your doctor to determine if this type of test is right for you.

For more information please check out the Centre of Disease Control. Information gathered is based on 2013-2010 statistical reports from the Centre of Disease Control and we give full acknowledgement to their findings and articles. got mold? recommends all of our readers to share the articles for knowledge based purposes.

The Mummy’s Curse and Mold

The Mummy’s Curse and Mold
Death shall come on swift wings to him who disturbs the peace of the king.
(The curse engraved on the exterior of King Tutankhamen’s tomb)
We have all heard about this curse. Mummification was a means of preserving the bodies of wealthy and prominent Egyptians in order to fulfill their quest to eternity. In 1922, a team of British archeologists in Egypt found the boy-king Tutankhamen’s tomb. By 1929, the eleven people associated with the tomb died of early and “unnatural” causes and this is how the myth of the “Mummy’s Curse” evolved.
However, it appears that the team that discovered the tomb all died from ancient mold spores.

In 1999, a German microbiologist, Gotthard Kramer identified several species of mold spores in tombs. Spores have a hardened outside shell which allows them to survive for a long period of time, even under harsh conditions (high or low temperature and without water). Mold spores can survive in almost any climate, even a dark dry tomb. He hypothesized “that when the tomb was first opened, the fresh air could have caused the spores to be blown into the air and infect the archaeologists through their nose, mouth, or eyes.”
The mold spores were identified as Aspergillus species which produces mycotoxins. These toxic fungi can cause rashes, fever, and fatigue. Untreated, this mold can cause death.
Interestingly, in 1973, the tomb of King Casimir IV of Poland was discovered by archaeologists. Of the twelve scientists that entered the tomb, four died within a few days and six more died within six months. It is speculated that the deaths were caused by exposure to toxins from Aspergillus.

The Mummy’s Curse and Mold_2

Today, and based on the lessons from history, archaeologists wear masks, gloves, and respirators to protect themselves from similar “curses” when handling ancient burial ruins.
The lesson to be learned is two-fold.
First and foremost, mold spores, dead or alive, can cause health issues.
Second, if you find mold in your home, it is recommended that you do not disturb the mold until you know exactly what type of mold it is–you do not want to inadvertently release mold spores in the air.
If you suspect any mold issues, please call for a professional assessment.