Allergic Bronchopulmonary Aspergillosis (ABPA)
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
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
Risk factors that increase your chances of getting ABPA include:
Symptoms of ABPA are usually those of progressive asthma. These include:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
As ABPA progresses, other symptoms may occur, including:
- Production of thick, brownish, and/or bloody sputum
- Mild fever
- Unintended weight loss
The doctor will ask 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:
- Chest x-ray
- CT scan
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.
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:
- Antifungal drugs
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
American Lung Association
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
The Canadian Lung Association
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 September 17, 2013.
Allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated June 17, 2013. Accessed September 17, 2013.
Wark PA, Gibson PG, Wilson AJ. Azoles for allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis associated with asthma. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2004; (3): CD001108.
Last reviewed September 2013 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.