Allergic Bronchopulmonary Aspergillosis (ABPA)

Your healthcare provider has told you that you have allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis (ABPA). This means you are having an allergic reaction to a common fungus called Aspergillus. ABPA causes the lungs to become inflamed. This leads to symptoms such as wheezing and coughing. You may cough up a lot of phlegm or brown specks of blood. You may also develop a fever. People with asthma or cystic fibrosis are most at risk of ABPA. Read on to learn more about ABPA and how it can be treated.

Outline of human head and chest with head turned to side. Inside of nose, trachea, and lungs are visible. Fungus is being breathed in to nose and lungs.

What is Aspergillus?

Aspergillus is a common fungus. It is often found in soil, on plants, and in rotting vegetation. Tiny particles of the fungus can be breathed into the lungs. This doesn’t cause a problem in most people. But if you have an allergy to the fungus, it can lead to ABPA.

Diagnosing ABPA

Your healthcare provider will examine you and ask about your symptoms and health history. You may also have one or more of the following tests:

  • Skin test to inject a small amount of the fungus into the skin and check it for an allergic reaction.

  • Blood test to take a sample of blood and check it for signs of allergic reaction.

  • Sputum culture to take fluid from the lungs and check it for fungus.

  • Imaging tests, such as chest X-ray or CT scan, to take detailed pictures of the lungs.

  • Biopsy to take a sample of lung tissue and check it for fungus.

Treating ABPA

Corticosteroid medicines can help reduce the inflammation in your lungs. You may also be given medicines to help kill the fungus. With treatment, symptoms related to ABPA can be controlled in most cases. But if left untreated, ABPA can cause scarring in the lungs.

Preventing ABPA

After treatment, you will need to take steps to avoid contact with Aspergillus in the future. Wear a breathing mask when working in the garden, sweeping, or doing other tasks that could expose you to the fungus.

When to call your healthcare provider

Call your healthcare provider right away if you have any of the following:

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or as advised by your healthcare provider

  • Uncontrolled wheezing

  • Cough that produces blood

  • Extreme tiredness

  • Symptoms that don’t improve with treatment