Pulmonary aspergillosis - allergic bronchopulmonary type

Alternative names
Aspergillosis - allergic bronchopulmonary; Allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis; ABPA

Pulmonary aspergillosis is an allergic reaction to a fungus called aspergillus, which causes inflammation of the airways and air sacs of the lungs.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

The aspergillus fungus is common. It can grow on dead leaves, stored grain, bird droppings, compost stacks and other decaying vegetation. Although most people are frequently exposed to aspergillus, infections caused by it such as a pneumonia or fungus ball (aspergilloma) are rare.

Some people, however, have an allergic reaction (hypersensitivity) to this fungus, which is called allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis (ABPA). It is characterized by inflammation of the airways (bronchi) or air sacs (alveoli). The disease may mimic asthma or pneumonia, and, in fact, most patients with ABPA have asthma as well.

Patients with asthma or cystic fibrosis are at highest risk for allergic aspergillosis.


  • worsening symptoms of asthma  
  • wheezing  
  • cough may produce brownish plugs or bloody sputum  
  • fever

Signs and tests

  • elevated CBC eosinophil count  
  • elevated serum IgE antibodies: total IgE level and level of IgE specific for aspergillus  
  • aspergillus antigen skin test  
  • positive serum aspergillus antibodies  
  • chest X-ray showing infiltrates and finger-like shadows  
  • chest CAT scan showing central bronchiectasis (dilation of the airways) or mucous plugging  
  • sputum stain and culture for fungus  
  • bronchoscopy with cultures and transbronchial biopsy  
  • rarely lung biopsy is required


Allergic aspergillosis is treated with oral prednisone. The anti-fungal antibiotic, itraconazole, can also be helpful. People with asthma should also continue their usual inhaler treatments.

Expectations (prognosis)
The response to therapy is usually good, with improvement over time. Relapses requiring repeat treatment are common.


  • irreversible airway obstruction  
  • bronchiectasis  
  • mucous plugging  
  • respiratory failure

Calling your health care provider
Call your health care provider if symptoms of this disorder develop.

Call your health care provider if breathing becomes more difficult. Severe breathing difficulty is an emergency.

People with predisposing factors (asthma, cystic fibrosis, etc.) should try to avoid environments where this fungus is found if possible.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised:

Diseases and Conditions Center

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All ArmMed Media material is provided for information only and is neither advice nor a substitute for proper medical care. Consult a qualified healthcare professional who understands your particular history for individual concerns.