Aspergillosis is a condition caused by aspergillus mould. There are several different types of aspergillosis. Most affect the lungs and cause breathing difficulties.
Aspergillosis is usually caused by inhaling tiny bits of mould. The mould is found in lots of places, including:
- soil, compost and rotting leaves
- plants, trees and crops
- damp buildings
- air conditioning systems
You cannot catch aspergillosis from someone else or from animals.
You're usually only at risk of aspergillosis if you have:
- a lung condition – such as asthma, cystic fibrosis or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- a weakened immune system – for example, if you have had an organ transplant or are having chemotherapy
- had tuberculosis (TB) in the past
- severe flu or coronavirus (COVID-19) and need artificial ventilation
Symptoms of aspergillosis include:
- shortness of breath
- a cough – you may cough up blood or lumps of mucus
- wheezing (a whistling sound when breathing)
- a high temperature of 38C or above
- weight loss
If you already have a lung condition, your existing symptoms may get worse.
See a GP if you have:
- a cough for more than 3 weeks
- a lung condition that's getting worse or harder to control with your usual treatment
- a weakened immune system and symptoms of aspergillosis
Get an urgent GP appointment if you cough up blood. Call 111 if you cannot see your GP.
Your GP will check for an obvious cause of your symptoms, like a chest infection or asthma.
If they're not sure what the problem is, they may refer you to a specialist for tests such as:
- X-rays and scans
- blood tests or tests on a sample of mucus
- allergy tests
- a bronchoscopy – where a thin, flexible tube with a camera at the end is used to look inside your lungs
Treatment usually helps control the symptoms. If it's not treated or well controlled, there's a risk it could damage your lungs.
It's almost impossible to completely avoid aspergillus mould.
But there are things you can do to reduce your risk of aspergillosis if you have a lung condition or weakened immune system.