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  Aspergillosis

Aspergillosis is primarily an infection of the lungs caused by a fungus called aspergillus. Infection occurs when spores, which are the particles that most fungi use to reproduce, are inhaled by a person. This fungus produces toxins responsible for aspergillosis. Aspergillus species are airborne. It is found among domesticated and cage birds. On dry, windy weather, they can spread from an area to another entering the body through the respiraotory system, eyes, ears, and lungs. Continuous fungal growth in areas of buildings and ventilation systems can cause Sick Building Syndrome.

Aspergillosis Allergies
Aspergillosis


Everyone is exposed to this fungus. It rarely causes disease; therefore, only patients with weakened immune system are the ones likely to develop aspergillosis. The same also applies to individuals with history of respiratory ailments. This disease does not present distinctive symptoms. It is often underdiagnosed or not reported. Patients with aspergillosis tend to have multiple complex health problems like AIDS, blood disorders, making diagnosis and treatment more complicated.

This disease can be fatal especially to those whose immune system is compromised. Though aspergillus is fatal, not all fungi are problematic. Some can even fight bacterial infections. The fungus Penicillum notatum was found out to kill a bacterial infection spreading to the face, eyes and lungs. Penicillin was also used to treat a human volunteer. After 1 day of his initial penicillin treatment, his temperature dropped and appetite returned.

Transmission is via inhalation of spores from contaminated feeds, fecal material and soil.

Symptoms of aspergillosis include respiratory distress, gasping, accelerated breathing, voice change, regurgitation, diarrhea, poor appetite, anorexia, gout, increased thirst, nasal discharge, conjunctivitis, dyspnea, neuromuscular disease, somnolence and lesions.

In order to prevent aspergillosis, stress and crowding should be minimized. Proper ventilation will also help. Nesting materials presumed to be contaminated with spores should be avoided. Feed should also be free from fungal growth. Care must be taken when handling corn and grain products. Fungal growth may become favorable under some circumstances.

Presence of clinical signs and absence of bacterial infection can help in diagnosis. Elevation of white blood cell count, anemia and an elevation of monocytes will support the diagnosis. X-rays can also help by revealing densities or nodules. Samples of fungus can also be cultured and examined. Birds can also be tested. A cloacal swab and throat culture is recommended. If the test is positive, aggressive treatment should begin immediately and the bird should be quarantined.

Prognosis depends upon the type, severity and the patient's immunological status. Allergic aspergillosis is a chronic disease treated successfully with corticosteroids. However, use of steroids must be approached with caution. Surgical treatment is another option; however, it may cause morbidity and mortality. Variconazole is used effectively to treat invasive aspegillosis. Caspofungin is the drug of choice for patients intolerant to other therapies. Certainty of diagnosis should be considered in selection of therapy. Amphotericin B, voriconazole, itraconanzole has a reasonably broad spectrum of activity against Aspergillus. The echinochandin glucan synthesis inhibitors, however, possess a narrower spectrum and can only be used in infections due to Aspergillus spp.

A hyphae in a specimen and repeated recovery of Aspergillus in a culture strongly support the diagnosis of Aspergillosis, considering that a number of fungi can be identical to the Aspergillus. Aspergillosis can be difficult to diagnose considering coughing and wheezing are common to many respiratory diseases. Sputum cultures will not be even helpful. Examining a tissue sample is the most reliable diagnostic tool.

Treatment is usually by using antifungal agents. These may include amphotericin, Flucytosine, Fluconazole and Itraconazole. To combat infection, immunostimulants can be also be used. For certain localized infections, surgery may be required.

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