ASPERGILLUS

ASPERGILLUS NIGER (below)

The genus Aspergillus includes over 185 species. Around 20 species have so far been reported as causative agents of opportunistic infections in man. Among these, Aspergillus fumigatus is the most commonly isolated species, followed by Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus niger. Aspergillus clavatus, Aspergillus glaucus group, Aspergillus nidulans, Aspergillus oryzae, Aspergillus terreus, Aspergillus ustus, and Aspergillus versicolor are among the other species less commonly isolated as opportunistic pathogens. Aspergillus is a group of molds which is found world-wide, especially in the autumn and winter in the Northern hemisphere. The fungus also causes allergic diseases in asthmatics and patients suffering from cystic fibrosis. 

The fungi (mold) that produce aflatoxins can infect important food and feed crops before, during and after harvest. These fungi, especially Aspergillus flavus and A. parasiticus, are normal soil-borne inhabitants in our environment, growing on both living and decaying plant matter.

Mycotoxins include metabolic by-products produced by a number of different fungi that may or may not be toxic. One of the mycotoxins, aflatoxin, is produced by the fungi Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus parasiticus. Four different aflatoxins, B1, B2, G1 and G2, have been identified with B1 being the most toxic, carcinogenic, hepatotoxic and potentially mutagenic, while also being the most prevalent.

Many common household foods are also manufactured by the aspergillus fermentation process. This can also be unhealthy for already compromised individual who has been exposed to aspergillus in high counts to be in contact with. It is recommended that these products be avoided at all costs.

The type of diseases caused by Aspergillus are varied, ranging from an "allergy"-type illness to life-threatening generalized infections. Diseases caused by Aspergillus are called Aspergillosis. The severity of Aspergillosis is determined by various factors but one of the most important is the state of the immune system of the person.

Possible Biological Warfare Agent To furthermore understand the significance of the component aflatoxin as a known carcinogen by the government, review the following expert on Iraq's declaration of biological weapons in 1998 according to this SIPRI fact sheet,

The discovery that Iraq was researching aflatoxin, not a traditional BW candidate, was a cause for some surprise. It is a carcinogen, the effects of which manifest themselves only after many years, and several Western experts have rationalized this Iraqi programme only in terms of genocidal goals. If aflatoxin were used against the Kurds, for instance, it would be impossible definitively to prove the use of BW once the symptoms emerged. Another possible explanation is its potential use as an immune suppressant, making victims more susceptible to other agents. However, the aflatoxin declaration may also hide other aspects of Iraq's BW programme: according to Iraq's depositions, the production programme never encountered any mishap (as other parts of the BW programme had) and, to judge from the declared time-frame for the total amount produced, production could never have stopped, even for cleaning of the equipment. This raises the suspicion that Iraq declared an excessive amount of aflatoxin in order to disguise the fact that other, more destructive agents had been produced in greater quantities.

Aspergillosis is a large spectrum of diseases caused by members of the genus Aspergillus. The three principal entities are: allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis, pulmonary aspergilloma and invasive aspergillosis. According to a recent Mayo Clinic study, one in seven Americans suffers from acute fungal sinusitis. These numbers are sounding alarming. Colonization of the respiratory tract is also common.Lowered host resistance due to such factors as underlying debilitating disease, neutropenia chemotherapy, disruption of normal flora, and an inflammatory response due to the use of antimicrobial agents and steroids can predispose the patient to colonization, invasive disease, or both. Aspergillus spp. are frequently secondary opportunistic pathogens in patients with bronchiectasis, carcinoma, other mycoses, sarcoid, and tuberculosis.

Allergic Broncho-pulmonary (Aspergillosis)
This is a condition which produces an allergy to the spores of the Aspergillus molds. It is quite common in asthmatics; up to 20% of asthmatics might get this at some time during their lives. ABPA is also common in cystic fibrosis patients, as they reach adolescence and adulthood. The symptoms are similar to those of asthma: intermittent episodes of feeling unwell, coughing and wheezing. Some patients cough up brown-colored plugs of mucus. The diagnosis can be made by X-ray or by sputum, skin and blood tests. In the long term can lead to permanent lung damage (fibrosis) if untreated.

ABOVE & BELOW SHOWS REMOVAL OF FUNGAL DEBRIS IN LUNGS

Aspergilloma This is a very different disease also caused by the Aspergillus mold. The fungus grows within a cavity of the lung, which was previously damaged during an illness such as tuberculosis or Sarcoidosis. Any lung disease which causes cavities can leave a person open to developing an aspergilloma. The spores penetrate the cavity and germinate, forming a fungal ball within the cavity. The fungus secretes toxic and allergic products which may make the person feel ill.

The person affected may have no symptoms (especially early on). Weight loss, chronic cough and feeling rundown are common symptoms later. Coughing of blood (hemoptysis) can occur in up to 50-80% of affected people. The diagnosis is made by X-rays, scans of lungs and blood tests.

INVASIVE ASPERGILLOSIS

Many people have died from severe invasive Aspergillosis. Their chances of living are improved the earlier the diagnosis is made but unfortunately there is no good diagnostic test. Often treatment has to be started when the condition is only suspected. This condition is usually clinically diagnosed in a person with low defenses such as bone marrow transplant, low white cells after cancer treatment, AIDS or major burns. There is also a rare inherited condition that gives people low immunity (chronic granulomatous disease) which puts affected people at moderate risk. People with invasive Aspergillosis usually have a fever and symptoms from the lungs (cough, chest pain or discomfort or breathlessness) which do not respond to standard antibiotics. X-rays and scans are usually abnormal and help to localize the disease. Bronchoscopy (inspection of the inside of the lung with a small tube inserted via the nose) is often used to help to confirm the diagnosis.

Sometimes the fungus can transfer from the lung through the blood stream to the brain and to other organs, including the eye, the heart, the kidneys and the skin. Usually this is a bad sign as the condition is more severe and the person sicker with higher risk of death. However, sometimes infection of the skin enables the diagnosis to be made earlier and treatment to be started sooner.
     

  Infected lung Many people die from invasive Aspergillosis. Their chances of living are improved the earlier the diagnosis is made but unfortunately there is no good diagnostic test. Often treatment has to be started when the condition is only suspected.

This condition is usually clinically diagnosed in a person with low defenses such as bone marrow transplant, low white cells after cancer treatment, AIDS or major burns. There is also a rare inherited condition that gives people low immunity (chronic granulomatous disease) which puts affected people at moderate risk. People with invasive Aspergillosis usually have a fever and symptoms from the lungs (cough, chest pain or discomfort or breathlessness) which do not respond to standard antibiotics. X-rays and scans are usually abnormal and help to localize the disease. Bronchoscopy (inspection of the inside of the lung with a small tube inserted via the nose) is often used to help to confirm the diagnosis.

Sometimes the fungus can transfer from the lung through the blood stream to the brain and to other organs, including the eye, the heart, the kidneys and the skin. Usually this is a bad sign as the condition is more severe and the person sicker with higher risk of death. However, sometimes infection of the skin enables the diagnosis to be made earlier and treatment to be started sooner.

Aspergillus (sinusitis)  
Aspergillus disease can proliferate in the sinuses leading to Aspergillus sinusitis. In those with normal immune systems, stuffiness of the nose, chronic headache or discomfort in the face is common. Drainage of the sinus, by surgery, usually cures the problem, unless the Aspergillus has entered the sinuses deep inside the skull. Then antifungal drugs and surgery is usually successful.


AFLATOXICOSIS

Aflatoxicosis is poisoning that results from ingestion of aflatoxins in contaminated food or feed. The aflatoxins are a group of structurally related toxic compounds produced by certain strains of the fungi Aspergillus flavus and A. parasiticus. Under favorable conditions of temperature and humidity, these fungi grow on certain foods and feeds, resulting in the production of aflatoxins. The most pronounced contamination has been encountered in tree nuts, peanuts, and other oilseeds, including corn and cottonseed. The major aflatoxins of concern are designated B1, B2, G1, and G2. These toxins are usually found together in various foods and feeds in various proportions; however, aflatoxin B1 is usually predominant and is the most toxic. When a commodity is analyzed by thin-layer chromatography, the aflatoxins separate into the individual components in the order given above; however, the first two fluoresce blue when viewed under ultraviolet light and the second two fluoresce green. Aflatoxin M a major metabolic product of aflatoxin B1 in animals and is usually excreted in the milk and urine of dairy cattle and other mammalian species that have consumed aflatoxin-contaminated food or feed.Aflatoxins produce acute necrosis, cirrhosis, and carcinoma of the liver in a number of animal species; no animal species is resistant to the acute toxic effects of aflatoxins; hence it is logical to assume that humans may be similarly affected. A wide variation in LD50 values has been obtained in animal species tested with single doses of aflatoxins. For most species, the LD50 value ranges from 0.5 to 10 mg/kg body weight. Animal species respond differently in their susceptibility to the chronic and acute toxicity of aflatoxins. The toxicity can be influenced by environmental factors, exposure level, and duration of exposure, age, health, and nutritional status of diet. Aflatoxin B1 is a very potent carcinogen in many species, including nonhuman primates, birds, fish, and rodents. In each species, the liver is the primary target organ of acute injury. Metabolism plays a major role in determining the toxicity of aflatoxin B1; studies show that this aflatoxin requires metabolic activation to exert its carcinogenic effect, and these effects can be modified by induction or inhibition of the mixed function oxidase system. Aflatoxicosis in humans has rarely been reported; however, such cases are not always recognized. Aflatoxicosis may be suspected when a disease outbreak exhibits the following characteristics:?The cause is not readily identifiable ?The condition is not transmissible syndromes may be associated with certain batches of food ?Treatment with antibiotics or other drugs has little effect