Allergic Bronchopulmonary Aspergillosis (ABPA)

Definition

Allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis (ABPA) is an allergic lung disorder. It is related to a fungus. Aspergillosis can also occur as:
  • A lung infection that can spread to other parts of the body, which is more common in patients with suppressed immune systems
  • A fungal growth in a lung cavity that has healed from a previous lung disease or infection

Causes

ABPA is caused by an allergic reaction to an inhaled fungus. It grows and flourishes in decaying vegetation, soil, certain foods, dust, and water. The inhaled fungus colonizes mucus in the lungs, causing:
  • Sensitization to the fungus
  • Recurring allergic inflammation of the lungs
  • Packing of the tiny alveoli air sacs in the lungs with a type of white blood cell involved in certain allergic reactions and infections with parasites
Healthy Alveoli
Alveoli
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Risk Factors

Risk factors that increase your chances of getting ABPA include:

Symptoms

Symptoms of ABPA are usually those of progressive asthma. These include:
  • Shortness of breath
  • Cough
  • Wheezing
  • Weakness
  • Chest pain
As ABPA progresses, other symptoms may occur, including:
  • Production of thick, brownish, and/or bloody sputum
  • Mild fever
  • Unintended weight loss

Diagnosis

You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.Images may be taken of your bodily structures. This can be done with:Your bodily fluids and tissues may be tested. This can be done with:
  • Sputum tests
  • Blood tests
  • Skin prick tests
  • Biopsy of lung or sinus tissue
Your lungs may be tested. This can be done with pulmonary function tests (PFTs) . ABPA can appear quite similar to non-ABPA induced asthma. ABPA is typically diagnosed after several repeat tests for ABPA are positive over a number of months or years.

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Treatment

The goals of treatment include:
  • Suppressing the allergic reaction to the fungus
  • Minimizing lung inflammation
  • Preventing the fungus from colonizing the lungs
ABPA is usually treated with:
  • Steroids
  • Antifungal drugs

Prevention

Avoiding exposure to fungus is the best way to prevent ABPA. However, this is difficult, because fugus is so prevalent in the environment. Guidelines to help prevent exposure to the fungus include:
  • Avoiding areas with:
    • Decaying vegetation
    • Standing water
  • Keeping your home as dust-free as possible
  • Remaining in air-filtered, air-conditioned environments whenever possible
Measures to avoid symptoms and prevent permanent lung damage caused by ABPA include:
  • Ongoing testing and monitoring of ABPA
  • Early and continuing medical treatment for the disease

RESOURCES

American Lung Association
http://www.lungusa.org

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
http://www.cdc.gov

CANADIAN RESOURCES

The Canadian Lung Association
http://www.lung.ca

Health Canada
http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca

References

Allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis (ABPA). American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology website. Available at: http://www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/related-conditions/allergic-bronchopulmonary-aspergillosis.aspx.. Accessed December 19, 2014.

Allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated December 4, 2014. Accessed December 19, 2014.

Wark PA, Gibson PG, Wilson AJ. Azoles for allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis associated with asthma. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2004; (3): CD001108.

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