Wondering what Aspergillus is? No, this has nothing to do with asparagus (although the two kind of sound similar if you ask me). Actually, you may be surprised to learn that most of us may be breathing in Aspergillus spores on a daily basis. But don’t let that scare you: these spores cause infections only in very rare cases. Keep reading to discover interesting facts about this condition.
What is it?
Aspergillus is nothing but a common mold. What makes it ‘special’ is that it is the most widespread mold on our planet. You might be surprised to learn that over 200 different species of this fungi have been identified across the globe! However, only 16 of these species may pose a threat to humans as they can cause infections and illnesses.
Some of the Aspergillus species that have proven to be hazardous to men include:
- Aspergillus versicolor
- Aspergillus ustus
- Aspergillus nidulans
- Aspergillus fumigatus
- Aspergillus clavatus
Did you know? Aspergillus got its name from the Latin word ‘Aspergere’ which means ‘to sprinkle’.
Is it true that this type of mold can cause infections?
Aspergillus can cause a disease known as Aspergillosis which can present itself as infections, allergic reactions or fungal overgrowth. However, the fungus does not affect the majority of people.
This being said, those who have weak immune systems (due to autoimmune conditions, a poor lifestyle, HIV/AIDS etc.) or are suffering from lung problems, are at greater risk of contracting an infection.
What are the different types of Aspergillosis? And what are their various symptoms?
Aspergillosis can come in various forms, ranging from mild infections to very severe ones. Let’s talk about some of them and their consequences.
- Allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis (ABPA)
As the name suggests, this kind of aspergillosis affects a person’s lungs. This condition, which is more common among individuals with asthma or cystic fibrosis, occurs when the fungus Aspergillus (more specifically, Aspergillus fumigatus) elicits an extreme immune response. This results in severe inflammation of the lungs.
Most common signs and symptoms
If you take a closer look at this disease’s symptoms and those of asthma, you will find that they are slightly similar. Some of them include:
iii. Difficulty in breathing
iv. Fever (in rare cases)
- Allergic Aspergillus sinusitis
As mentioned earlier, individuals with a suboptimal immune system are at a greater risk of being adversely affected by the fungus which can provoke an inflammation in the nose and sinuses.
This is known as fungal sinusitis which may be classified as:
i. Non-invasive fungal sinusitis (fungal overgrowth in the sinuses)
ii. Invasive fungal sinusitis
Most common signs and symptoms
ii. Runny nose
iv. Reduced ability to smell
- Pulmonary aspergilloma
Aspergilloma is commonly known as “fungus ball.” As you might have guessed from its name, it refers to a ball of Aspergillus mold. These balls grow when the fungus Aspergillus starts to develop in the lung cavities or attacks healthy tissue. Aspergillomas can also spread to the brain, kidney as well as other parts of the body.
Most common signs and symptoms
ii. Coughing up blood
iii. Difficulty in breathing
iv. Chest pain
vii. Unintentional weight loss
- Invasive aspergillosis
In most cases, invasive aspergillosis attacks the lungs. It can nevertheless affect other organs as well. If you have a weak immune system, you are more likely to be infected. Generally, conditions such as cancer or AIDS; an organ or stem cell transplant or certain drugs can decrease the amount of white blood cells or weaken the immune system.
Most common signs and symptoms
ii. Chest pain
iv. Coughing up blood
v. Shortness of breath
vi. Other symptoms can develop if the infection spreads from the lungs to other parts of the body.
- Cutaneous (skin) aspergillosis
If you have a break in your skin (such as after surgery or a burn wound) in addition to a weak immune system, it will be easier for Aspergillus to enter your body. This can lead to skin infections.
Moreover, for individuals who suffer from invasive aspergillosis, it is more likely that they will develop cutaneous aspergillosis if it spreads from other parts of the body to the skin.
Is there any link between Aspergillus and candida yeast overgrowth?
Aspergillus fungus and candidiasis are not directly linked to each other. However, these two are connected. If you suffer from candida yeast overgrowth, the presence of Aspergillus molds in your house may worsen your condition by:
- Weakening your immune system. There is one thing that you have to bear in mind: the more you are exposed to molds, the weaker your immune system will get. Consequently, candida yeast present in your gut will be able to multiply easily.
- Increasing your sensitivity to fungi. Long-term exposure to molds will trigger your immune system. After some time, if you start developing allergies to molds, then your body will tend to react more severely against candida. It is this hyper-sensitivity which will further weaken your immune system and cause inflammation.
What are its causes?
Trying to steer clear from Aspergillus mold is quite impossible. Wondering why? Well, this type of fungus is present everywhere! Whatever country or environment you may think of, you will find it there. If you take a look outside, you will surely find it on trees and rotting leaves. Now, if you inspect your house, you might discover it thriving in your air conditioning and even in some of your food.
Aspergillus mold also grows on:
- Plants and grain crops
- Heating systems and insulation
- Pillows and blankets
- Household dust
- Crushed pepper and spices
Is it contagious?
Most scientists consider aspergillosis as being non-contagious. However, some argued that this infectious disease can spread between people in rare circumstances. For example, this can happen if contaminated tools were used in a surgery.
Are there any tests or diagnosis available?
Yes, if you think that you are infected by Aspergillus mold, several tests will help to diagnose whether or not you contracted aspergillosis. Health care providers will first take a look at your medical history. Then, they will examine you and see whether they can detect any signs of this infectious disease. However, since its symptoms may look similar to other diseases, it is sometimes quite hard to diagnose the condition.
You may be requested to do the following diagnostic tests:
- Imaging tests – These tests usually include a chest X-ray or a computed tomography (CT) test of your lungs or the part of your body that is thought to be infected. A CT test gives information about internal organs that cannot be seen in normal X-rays.
- Blood tests – If your immune system has become severely weak, a sample of your blood will help to diagnose whether you are suffering from invasive aspergillosis. Moreover, if specific antibodies are found in your blood, this will indicate allergic reactions.
- Skin tests – Such tests will prove to be very useful if you are suffering from asthma or cystic fibrosis. This is done by injecting a small dose of aspergillus antigen in your lower arm. In case your body reacts to this, a red bump will form at the exact spot or close to where you were injected.
- Sputum culture – The doctor or technician may take a sample of saliva and mucus that you cough up from your respiratory tract. He will then dye it and test it for evidence of Aspergillus.
- Biopsy – A sample of affected tissue is removed from your lungs or sinuses and is then analyzed to detect any sign of Aspergillus.
How can this condition be treated? Can you recommend some medications?
Here are some good news for those of you who have been diagnosed with aspergillosis. Thanks to the hard work of scientists, this disease can now be treated in several ways. Let’s walk you through the different treatment options available.
- Oral corticosteroid medications – If you have allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis, your doctor may recommend you to take either solid or liquid oral drugs. Examples include prednisone, prednisolone and methylprednisolone. These drugs are anti-inflammatory and prevent wheezing and coughing from worsening. However, keep in mind that these drugs can promote weight gain and will only control your symptoms – they will not treat the root cause(s) of your condition.
- Antifungal medications – Depending on the form of allergic aspergillosis that you have been diagnosed with, you may be advised to take different drugs against this fungus.
i. Invasive aspergillosis. Being a more effective drug than others and having fewer side effects, voriconazole is often seen as the best antifungal treatment against invasive pulmonary aspergillosis. If this medication does not have the desired effect on patients or they simply cannot tolerate it, other drugs are available. This includes: itraconazole, amphotericin B, micafungin and posaconazole. In cases where the infection proves to be resistant against these antifungals, caspofungin may be used.
ii. Allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis or allergic Aspergillus sinusitis. When treating these two conditions, itraconazole and corticosteroids have proven to be effective.
- Surgery – Sometimes when fungus balls have developed in your body, you may lose blood excessively. If this happens to you, you will probably be advised to undergo a surgery. This is because, in most cases, antifungal medications are not really helpful against aspergillomas. In such cases, you may be suggested to go through embolization. This process will prevent your blood from flowing to your artery and will, instead, head towards where the fungus ball is, more precisely in your lung cavity. This will stop you from bleeding. However, this can happen again later on.
Is Penicillium linked to this mold?
Does Penicillum sound familiar to you? If this is the case, it is probably because modern scientists discovered certain antibiotics through a type of Penicillium. While you may think that Penicillium is a kind of drug, it is in reality a type of fungus which often resides in soil, rotting vegetation and carpets.
Many people find it hard to differentiate Penicillium from Aspergillus mold. And this is simply because they do not know the meanings of these two genus’ names. Penicillium which comes from the Latin word ‘penicillus’, means brush or more specifically, paint brush. As such, you can picture this mold as a flat or round surface from which comes out many “bristles”.
On the other hand, Aspergillus got its name after aspergillum, a device which is used by Catholic priests. This device is similar to a circle with a handle and has spikes on the outside. For some people, it resembles a toilet bowl brush.
Are mycotoxins linked to this mold?
Mycotoxins. Sounds like a pretty complicated word, right? Well, ‘myco’ simply means fungal. Therefore, this term can be easily understood to refer to toxins which are released by certain types of molds. This category of toxins is considered to be among the most lethal substances that exist.
There are different types of mycotoxins. One of them is aflatoxins, toxins that are primarily produced by a specie of Aspergillus mold known as Flavi. Generally, this type of toxin attacks agricultural products in many parts of the world.
Are yellow molds a form of Aspergillus mold?
If you discovered yellow mold at your place, I bet the first question that came to your mind was: isn’t mold supposed to be black or green? Actually, you may be surprised to learn that there are also white and brown molds. You will often find them in damp areas such as bathrooms, attics, basements or on leaky roof tops. Yellow molds also grow under leaky sinks and around leaky window frames.
Aspergillus is among the most common house molds that exist. Some species of this fungus, which are yellow in color, like to grow in places where water leaks.
How can I get rid of molds?
The presence of molds in your home can only mean one thing: moisture. Generally, once you find out what is causing this problem, you will be able to fix it in no time.
Before we start talking about how molds can be removed, you need to keep in mind the following: in nearly all cases, Aspergillus is the type of mold that grows in houses. Since it can affect your lungs as well as other organs of your body, you should never forget to wear a pair of goggles, a respirator and disposable gloves when cleaning.
The easiest way of removing house molds
According to the CDC, you only need one cup of bleach, mixed in a gallon of water to get rid of the majority of molds that exists.
Note that there are cases where you will have no other choice but to hire a professional especially if you can smell molds in your house but cannot see any trace of it. This is often due to the spreading of molds inside the walls or ventilation ducts of your house.
What are Mucors? How are they linked to Aspergillus?
If you compare Mucor (a type of mold) to Aspergillus, you will see that they are both quite similar. Mucor resembles Aspergillus fungus in the following ways:
- It is a mold which can be found in soil, plants and decaying crops.
- It usually thrives in damp areas such as buildings where there is water damage.
- Sometimes when people are exposed to some of the Mucor species, they develop allergies and infections.
- People with a suppressed immune system or who suffer from burn wounds are more prone to contract Mucor infections.
Despite being alike to Aspergillus, Mucor differs to this mold in one way: since most Mucor species cannot grow in warm environments, they cannot cause infections in human beings.
Is mucormycosis and aspergillosis the same?
Once known as zygomycosis, mucormycosis is a rare fungal infection caused by organisms belonging to a group of fungi called mucormycetes or mucoromycotina. Mucormycosis resembles aspergillosis in the following ways:
- It primarily affects people with suboptimal immune systems.
- Usually, when individuals inhale mucoromycotina spores, these fungi directly attack their lungs and sinuses. If they enter through a break in their skin, these individuals often end up with cutaneous infections.
- Mucoromycotina are typically found in the soil or in decaying leaves.
Are there some easily available antifungal remedies?
After many scientific research were conducted, it was discovered that Aspergillus species have a preference for oxygen-rich environments. They usually tend to grow on food like bread, potatoes and nuts. If you are looking for a way to get rid of aspergillosis, try to incorporate the food listed below in your diet.
- Garlic cloves
Raw garlic gloves have proven to be a very powerful remedy against fungi. Apart from its antimicrobial and blood cleansing properties, garlic contains a compound known as allicin. So, when this extraordinary compound travels through the bloodstream, it destroys any mold present, thus acting as a natural treatment against fungus infection.
- Goldenseal roots
These roots are very effective when it comes to the elimination of fungus and viruses. Although goldenseal roots are not as strong as other natural antifungals, it is believed that they enhance their effects when taken together.
- Olive oil and olive leaf extract
Both olive oil and extracts taken from the olives’ leaves were found to contain a chemical known as oleuropein. Thanks to its strong antifungal properties, this amazing chemical has proven to be very effective against molds. Instead of exterminating molds directly, oleuropein causes a disruption in the reproductive cycles of Aspergillus species. As such, they cannot spread anymore and this brings a rapid end to their proliferation.
- Coconut oil
Coconut oil contains lauric, capric and caprylic acids. Due to their strong anti-fungal properties, these different acids are able to reduce mold and fungi infections. This famous oil also stimulates the immune system and since it is a mild laxative, it successfully flushes dead molds out of the body.
In addition to the above-mentioned natural remedies, make sure to have a balanced diet and drink a lot of water. Our supplement canXida Remove contains some of the best anti-fungal herbs and works great as a supplement to your diet.
What is kombucha? Does it have any connection with this mold?
Kombucha is a fermented tea that is made by incubating a live starter known as a SCOBY in sweet black tea. This health beverage has now become popular and is sold in food stores. Although many people advocate the therapeutic effects of this fermented tea, no scientific studies have been able to say exactly what are its benefits and/or negative effects.
Wondering how Aspergillus is linked to kombucha? Well, some of those who love drinking kombucha tea, have started to grow their own kombucha SCOBY at home. Unfortunately, the SCOBY may often be contaminated by Aspergillus molds. It is feared that amateurs may think that the culture could be decontaminated by simply pulling out the Aspergillus colonies with a utensil. Such a presupposition is not only dangerous but can also prove to be fatal.
In a Newsweek edition, dating April 25th, 1995, Bruce Stordock said: “The water-soluble toxins of Aspergillus can be highly carcinogenic. Several species are known killers. Since the public cannot be expected to distinguish a clean fermented culture from one which is not, I fear that the unreserved use of this tea will result, has resulted in illness, if not death.”
Although Aspergillosis is not a common disease, if you start seeing any of the signs that have been mentioned in this article, please contact your healthcare provider.
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