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Aspergillosis is an infection caused by a fungus called Aspergillus, most commonly Aspergillus fumigatus, that typically affects the respiratory system. There are three types of aspergillosis; chronic, which is the most common; allergic; and invasive, which is the most severe.
Now, let’s quickly review the physiology of how the immune system fights off fungal infections. This is typically accomplished by white blood cells, which are part of the innate immune system. When a pathogen enters the body, the innate immune system reacts quickly. Some of the first cells on the scene include phagocytic cells like macrophages which essentially eat the pathogen. In response, they send out signals, such as beta-d-glucan, to activate other cells like neutrophils to surround and kill the pathogen. These combined, non-specific innate immune responses kill most fungal pathogens before they can spread around the body.
Now, the cause of aspergillosis is being exposed to the Aspergillus fungus. This fungus is ubiquitous, and particularly loves damp areas, older buildings, moist soil, and damp woods and leaves, so working in construction or farm jobs in these areas puts a client at higher risk for developing an Aspergillus infection.
Additionally, risk factors for severe aspergillosis include being immunocompromised because of AIDS or neutropenia; long-term term steroid use; or anti-rejection medications after a transplant. Also, chronic lung disease like COPD, asthma, TB, and cystic fibrosis put clients at increased risk.
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