Origin: This genus includes more than 600 species. Most of them are saprophytic, do not cause disease, and only a few are capable of being pathogenic to humans and plants. It is widespread in the environment, in soil, on plants, in the air, in foods and on decaying matter. This organism is common in indoor air. The enzyme of some Aspergillus species is used in the production of foods: for example, the production of industrial alcohols and soy sauce. Some are used in the breakdown of fatty or waxy substances, or in the production of antibiotics (A.niger). It is impossible to differentiate the species in air samples. It is not even recommended to attempt to differentiate Aspergillus from Penicillium.
Health effects: Aspergillosis (diseases caused by Aspergillus species) is usually acquired by inhalation of the spores. It begins as a pulmonary disease producing granulomatosis (tumorous) lesions in the lungs and bronchi. These can spread into surrounding blood vessels and to the rest of the body. It can also cause osteomycosis (external ear infections) and fungus ball (abscess). Asthma attacks can occur in sensitized individuals by inhalation of the spores. Other infections include: myocarditis, meningitis, osteomyelitis, mycetoma, burn infections, invasion of nasal sinuses, onychromycosis, keratomycosis and toxin ingestion by eating contaminated food.
Last Updated: 20 December 2000
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