Aspergillosis

Aspergillosis is an infection, a growth or an allergic reaction caused by the Aspergillus mould (fungus), which commonly grows on rotting vegetation. The illnesses resulting from Aspergillosis infection usually affect the respiratory system. Some people with asthma are allergic to Aspergillus and develop allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis (ABPA).

Aspergillosis generally causes a sudden, worsening infection where the symptoms may include wheezing, chest pain, noes congestion, facial pain and cough with blood-stained sputum.

Hazards and Risks of Asperigillosis in farmers occurs when working with composting or decaying vegetation such as silage, rain damaged hay or mouldy grain.

Silage, mouldy hay and grain can contain the Aspergillus mould spores which are tiny at 2-3 microns and can go deep into your lungs when inhaled, causing respiratory illness.

Hay baled at high moisture content levels increases the likelihood of hay becoming mouldy. Hay which is darker in colour or has a musty smell is indicative of mould being present.

Horses, dogs, cows and birds are also susceptible to Aspergillosis if exposed to mould spores as a result of being fed mouldy hay or grain, especially in poorly ventilated, confined areas. Mouldy hay can contain toxins that are harmful to stock especially pregnant milking cows which can lead to abortion.

Recommendations for the prevention of Asperigillosis include wearing a mask that complies with Australian Standards when handling mouldy hay or composting vegetation. Fitting the mask correctly is essential, as the presence of facial hair such as beards or even being unshaven can reduce the effectiveness of the mask. Facial hair can be 15 microns and as Aspergillus spores are 2-3 micron effective fitting masks is vital.

Find out more on Better Health Channel

Fast facts:

  • Is an infection, growth or allergic reaction caused by the Aspergillus fungus that can cause respiratory illness
  • Always wear a well fitted P2 dust mask to prevent spores from being inhaled when working with silage, mouldy hay or grain.
  • Asperigillosis can also affect animals such as horses, cows, birds and dogs
  • Avoid feeding animals mouldy hay or grain

References used for this topic

More information:

Better Health Channel
Aspergillus

Clinical care:

Australasian Society of Infectious Diseases
Guidelines for the use of antifungal agents in the treatment of invasive Candida and mould infections [PDF 70kb]

International Journal of COPD
Management of invasive aspergillosis in patients with COPD: rational use of voriconazole [PDF 169kb]

Research and Reviews:

Journal of Fungi
Allergic Bronchopulmonary Aspergillosis (2016)