Can Aspergillus sp., a Common Fungi, be Deadly?

A report published in the Aspergillus Website Newsletter – September 2012 reveals that it is one of the top four misdiagnosed conditions with deadly consequences.

Atlanta, GA – Aspergillosis is a medical condition of a hyper sensitive reaction by an individual’s immune system upon exposure to a fungus known as “Aspergillus.” The most common symptom is airway inflammation and other lung

Microbial infested HVAC system
Microbial infested HVAC system

conditions.  However, other conditions due to Aspergillosis may also include a localized infection involving the nails, feet, external auditory canal and eyes, etc. This is one of the most commonly misdiagnosed aliments.

A report published in the Aspergillu​s Website Newsletter – September 2012 reveals that it is one of the top four misdiagnosed conditions with deadly consequences. The common symptoms of infected individuals includes, but are not limited to, cough, coughing up blood or brownish mucus plugs, fever, wheezing, weight loss, blood in urine, bone pain, chest pain, chills, decreased urine output, headaches, increased phlegm production, shortness of breath, skin sores (lesions), vision problems, etc..

Types of aspergillosis:

  • Allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis (ABPA)Aspergillus causes inflammation in the lungs and allergy symptoms such as coughing and wheezing, but doesn’t cause an infection.
  • Allergic Aspergillus sinusitisAspergillus causes inflammation in the sinuses and symptoms of a sinus infection (drainage, stuffiness, headache) but doesn’t cause an infection.
  • Aspergilloma: also called a “fungus ball.” As the name suggests, it is a ball of Aspergillus that grows in the lungs or sinuses, but usually does not spread to other parts of the body.
  • Chronic pulmonary aspergillosis: a long-term (3 months or more) condition in which Aspergilluscan cause cavities in the lungs. One or more fungal balls (aspergillomas) may also be present in the lungs.
  • Invasive aspergillosis: a serious infection that usually affects people who have weakened immune systems, such as people who have had an organ transplant or a stem cell transplant. Invasive aspergillosis most commonly affects the lungs, but it can also spread to other parts of the body.
  • Cutaneous (skin) aspergillosisAspergillus enters the body through a break in the skin (for example, after surgery or a burn wound) and causes infection, usually in people who have weakened immune systems. Cutaneous aspergillosis can also occur if invasive aspergillosis spreads to the skin from somewhere else in the body, such as the lungs.

What about Cystic Fibrosis?:  With over 30,000 cystic fibrosis  patients in the United States — The US is the largest patient population with the disease in the world, according to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.  “Aspergillus may cause several pulmonary manifestations in CF patients. Allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis (ABPA) is recognized as a severe complication and characterized by an accelerated decline in lung function,” said researchers from a previous research project conducted at Statens Serum Institut’s Department of Microbiological Surveillance and Research in Copenhagen, Denmark.

According to a recent study conducted by a medical student from Manchester University in the United Kingdom, approximately 50 percent of cystic fibrosis patients are also infected by the Aspergillus fungus, which is caused by an exposure to mold. The research highlights the dangers of mold, and it may help doctors improve diagnosis and treatment for patients with CF

How many species are there of Asperguillus?  Out of the hundreds of known species of Aspergillus, A. fumigatus is most common invasive, as well as, put, headaches, increased phlegm production, shortness of breath, skin sores EDLab ETC 4(lesions), vision problems, etc. non-invasive types of “Aspergillosis.” A. flavus and A. niger are reported as the second and third most common causes of “Aspergillosis,” respectively. Other important species of Aspergillus that can cause “Aspergillosis” are A. terrus, A. amstelodomi, A. candidus, A. carneus, A. flavipes, A. nidulans, A. neveus, A. ochraceus, A. oryzae, A. repens, A. restrictus, A.  sydowi, A. ustus, and A. versicolor.

Several of the above mentioned species have been reported in and around indoor environments; therefore, Aspergillus exposure is not uncommon in residential and commercial places. It has generally been observed that dwellers with a compromised or weak immune system are more prone to acquire this infection in comparison to individuals with robust immunity.

Where can Aspergllus be found?  This fungus is a ubiquitous mycoflora of the environment.   In indoor environments, this fungus can be transported from outside or may propagate on building materials such as cellulose rich sheet rocks, etc. and can generally be isolated from floors, air handlings units, evaporator coils, wetted fiberglass insulation, blower assemblies, ductwork, drain pans, wetted building materials, carpets, mattress dust, etc…  Outdoors it frequently occurs in soil, dead leaves, stored grain, breads, peanuts, dry fruits, rotting vegetables, cheese, compost piles, or in other decaying vegetation. The fungus is also is reported from clinical specimens.

This fungi can adapt to extreme conditions for their growth; however, the most favorable growth factors include, but are not limited to, moisture above 60% and a temperature around 25ºC (this is a thermophilic fungus and some species can grow at temperatures as high as 50ºC) besides organic rich compounds. Some species of these fungi are known to produce mycotoxins.

In routine investigations on environmental samples collected in and around indoor sites, the Environmental Diagnostics Laboratory at Pure Air Control Services, Inc. of Clearwater, FL has observed that Aspergillus Species is one of the 10 most frequently reported fungi from indoor environments. This fungus may be categorized as environmental or clinical, based on its source. In either case, depending upon its viability, this microorganism is capable of rapid multiplication and dissemination.

The air dispersal of this fungus is rather common and significant especially due to their small spore size (3-5µm). Individuals can inhale these spores easily and may sensitize themselves for Aspergillosis. Therefore, continuous environmental surveillance is essential to monitor these infectious particles from a health and hygiene point of view in and around closed structures (home, offices, etc.).

A number of techniques and methods are available for testing, both qualitatively and quantitatively, to understand the extent of Aspergillus in and around building environments such as healthcare settings, work places, offices, residences, and other habitations. The management of controlling, spreading, potential risk of exposure, and prevention of Aspergillus related infections can be facilitated by knowing the existence of these entities in our surroundings.Photo HAI

 

How to remove Aspergillus and other microbesfrom HVAC systems?  A provenGREEN method to effectively remove Aspergillus sp. among other fungi, bacteria, viruses from HVAC systems is the PURE-Steam Coil Cleaning process that uses super heated steam at 350 degrees along with a high volume flushing process developed by the scientists at Pure Air Control Services/EDLab.  See air flow/microbial GT case study.

For additional information on microbial/allergen assessment of your work site or home contact the Building Sciences team at Pure Air Control Services Francisco Aguirre, Director,  Dr. Rajiv R Sahay, Laboratory Director Environmental Diagnostics Laboratory (EDLab): 800-422-7873 ext. 301 or Alan Wozniak ext 802.

For a free quote on the PURE-Steam Coil Cleaning visit www.pureaircontrols.com/services/remediation-duct-cleaning/or call 1-800-422-7873 ext 804 (Jeff Nack)  or 804 (Alan Wozniak).

About Environmental Diagnostics Laboratory (EDLab):

Alan Wozniak founded Pure Air Control Services, Inc. in 1984 as a small mechanical contracting firm and has since set the industry standard for indoor environmental quality diagnosis, environmental laboratory, and remediation. Pure Air Control Services has serviced more than 600 million square feet of indoor environments in over 10,000 facilities.

The Environmental Diagnostics Laboratory (EDLab) (established in 1992) at Pure Air Control Services (PACS) is an AIHA accredited environmental lab offering complete and comprehensive indoor environmental microbiology laboratory services. They include: microbiology, aerobiology, chemistry, allergen assays, and microscopy designed to meet all your indoor air needs. EDLab supports IAQ investigations by assisting with strategic sampling plan development and supplying media collection equipment while performing a wide range of environmental analyses.

The company’s expanding client roster includes the General Services Administration (GSA); US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE); Allstate Insurance; Carrier Air Conditioning; US Naval Air Warfare Center, Orlando; and Naval Air Station – King’s Bay, Georgia; and many other Fortune 500 companies, school boards, and city, state, and county governments, making Pure Air Control Services/EDLab the reliable industry leader in IAQ.

For more information, visit the company’s web site at http://www.pureaircontrols.com or contact Alan Wozniak 1-800-422-7873 ext 802.

 

 

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