Aspergillosis

Aspergillosis is a condition caused by breathing in aspergillus mould.

Most people who breathe in the mould do not get ill, as the body’s immune system destroys the spores. But it can develop in people with an existing lung condition or a weakened immune system.

There are different types of aspergillosis - most affect the lungs and cause breathing difficulties.

On this page:


What causes aspergillosis?

Aspergillosis is caused by breathing in small particles, called spores, of aspergillus in the air. Aspergillus is a common type of fungus (mould). Find out how to stop aspergillus growing in your home.

The mould can be found in:

Some older houses may not have covered water tanks, or the covers may not be fixed. If you live in a house with an old water tank, it’s worth checking that it has a cover and the cover fits securely.

  • soil, compost and rotting leaves
  • plants, trees and crops
  • dust and bedding
  • damp buildings
  • air conditioning systems and uncovered attic water tanks

You cannot catch aspergillosis from another person or from animals.

Find out how to stop aspergillus growing in your home.


Who is at risk of aspergillosis?

Aspergillosis is rare in healthy people. You’re at risk if:


What are the symptoms of aspergillosis?

Symptoms of aspergillosis include:

  • shortness of breath
  • a cough – which may bring up blood or mucus (which can become very thick)
  • wheeze (a whistling sound when breathing)
  • a high temperature of 38C or above
  • weight loss

If you already have a lung condition, your existing symptoms can get worse.


How is aspergillosis diagnosed?

If you have a lung condition and your symptoms are worse despite your usual treatment or you’ve had a cough for more than 3 weeks, go to see your GP. It may take some time to rule out other causes and get a diagnosis, and you may need to see a specialist or have tests such as:


How is aspergillosis treated?

The treatment for aspergillosis depends on the type. It is important to get treatment, as without treatment, it can cause lung damage.

Types of aspergillosis:

Allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis (ABPA)

This is caused by an allergic reaction to the aspergillus mould. You may need to take steroid and antifungal medicines for some months.

Chronic pulmonary aspergillosis (CPA)

This is a long-term lung infection which may require long term (possibly life-long) treatment with antifungal medicines.

Aspergilloma

This caused by aspergillus growing into a ball inside the lung. This usually occurs in areas of the lung damaged by previous infections, especially TB. Aspergillomas are often linked to chronic pulmonary aspergillosis (CPA). You may need to have surgery to the remove the ball, often after antifungal therapy.

Invasive pulmonary aspergillus (IPA)

This is a life-threatening infection in people who have a weakened immune system. They will be treated in hospital with antifungal medicines given directly into a vein.


Preventing aspergillosis

It’s not possible to completely avoid aspergillus mould. But there are things you can do to reduce the risk of catching aspergillosis:

  • avoid places where aspergillus mould is often found
  • close your windows if there’s construction work or digging outside
  • wear a face mask in dusty places and consider using an air purifier
  • dry your laundry outside or in a tumble dryer – avoid drying it in your bedroom or living space

Find out how to stop aspergillus growing in your home.


Useful resources:

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Download our aspergillosis information (PDF, 133KB)

Last medically reviewed: December 2019. Due for review: December 2022

This information uses the best available medical evidence and was produced with the support of people living with lung conditions. Find out how we produce our information. If you’d like to see our references get in touch.