Allergic Bronchopulmonary Aspergillosis (ABPA)

Allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis (ABPA) is an allergic lung disorder that's caused by an allergic reaction to an inhaled fungus.

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

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

Allergic Bronchopulmonary Aspergillosis Treatment

Treatment aims to:

  • Suppress your allergic reaction to the fungus
  • Minimize lung inflammation
  • Prevent the fungus from colonizing the lungs

Steroids and anti-fungal drugs can usually treat this infection.

Diagnosing ABPA

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history and perform a physical exam. You may have images taken of your bodily structures and bodily fluids and tissue tests. This can be done with:

  • Chest X-ray
  • CT scan
  • Sputum tests
  • Blood tests
  • Skin prick tests
  • Biopsy of lung or sinus tissue

Your doctor may also test your lungs with pulmonary function tests (PFTs).

Allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis can appear quite similar to everyday asthma, and is typically diagnosed after several repeat tests are positive over a number of months or years.

diagram of air sacs in the lungs
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    Symptoms are usually those of progressive asthma and include:

    • Shortness of breath
    • Cough
    • Wheezing
    • Weakness
    • Chest pain

    As ABPA progresses, other symptoms may occur, including:

    • Thick, brownish and/or bloody sputum
    • Mild fever
    • Unintended weight loss

    Are You at Risk?

    Risk factors that increase your chances of getting allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis include:

    Preventing ABPA

    Avoid exposure to fungus by:

    • Avoiding areas with decaying vegetation and 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 

    Content was created using EBSCO’s Health Library. Edits to original content made by Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice.