New asthma research breaks the mold

Scientists investigating the allergic reactions that asthmatics suffer towards a common mould have discovered that many people with asthma actually had the mould growing in their own lungs.

The research led by University of Leicester scientists at Glenfield Hospital has been published in the December 2010 issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

The team based in the Institute for Lung Health at the University of Leicester and Glenfield Hospital examined the impact on asthmatics of a common environmental mould, Aspergillus fumigates, usually found in soil and compost heaps.

Professor Andy Wardlaw from the University of Leicester said: “Asthma is a very common condition where the breathing tubes (bronchi) can go into spasm making it difficult to breathe. Around a fifth of adults with severe asthma, which they have had for a long time, get permanent (fixed) narrowing of their bronchi. It is known that A. fumigatus can grow in the lungs of some people with asthma and mould allergy, which can cause severe lung damage.

“This problem is thought to only affect a very small number of people with asthma; however, about half of people with severe asthma have evidence of allergy to moulds like A. fumigatus.”

Researchers in the Institute for Lung Health at the University of Leicester and Glenfield Hospital, Leicester, carried out a study funded by the Midlands Asthma and Allergy Research Association (MAARA, a Midlands based charity funding research into asthma and allergy research. www.maara.org) and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), to determine whether the problem of A. fumigatus growing in the lungs is more common than previously thought, and whether this could explain the fixed narrowing of the airways that occurs in some people with asthma.

Professor Wardlaw added: “Our study showed that 6 out of 10 people with asthma who were allergic to A. fumigatus grew the mould from their sputum. We also found that if you were allergic to A. fumigatus you had more narrowing of the airways than if you were not allergic, and this was worse in patients from whom A. fumigatus was grown.

“Our research concluded that it is possible that fixed narrowing of breathing tubes in many people with asthma could be caused by A. fumigatus growing in their lungs.

“Treating individuals from whom A. fumigatus is detected with antibiotics against the mould may prevent fixed narrowing of the airways. “

NOTE TO NEWSDESK: For more information, please contact: Professor Andy Wardlaw, Tel: 0116 256 3841 (Secretary, Gail Fretter)

4 COMMENTS

  1. I understand that Aspergillus Fumigatus is associated with grains and not commonly found in sick buildings. Am I wrong with that understanding?

    Also, does anyone know, other than Fumigatus, what other Aspergillus (or mold) species, can grow in your lungs?

  2. This is an interesting study. An antifungal drug might rid you of the problem but I’d say be sure there is no aspergillus lurking in your home otherwise you could become re-infected. Adequate ventilation is a must – especially if there are any areas of condensation in the kitchen and bathroom. It’s so cold in the UK at the moment that people are staying indoors with their doors and windows shut tight! Ideal conditions for moulds and other indoor pollutants to build up.

  3. There are many physicians that have been reporting patients having symptoms similar to asthma after exposure to molds and bacteria found in water damaged buildings. A confusing aspect of this article reads:

    “Our research concluded that it is possible that fixed narrowing of breathing tubes in many people with asthma could be caused by A. fumigatus growing in their lungs.

    “Treating individuals from whom A. fumigatus is detected with antibiotics against the mould may prevent fixed narrowing of the airways. “

    A fumagatis is a fungus, not a bacteria. As such, physicians are reporting success treating it in the lungs with antifungals, not antibiotics.

    I wonder if this is a misquote in the article.

  4. A relevant but strangely ignored or not generally known fact about asthma is that the change between weak (asthmatic) and strong (healthy) breathing is dependent on abdominal muscle tension. Slackening the muscles here causes abysmally weak and asthmatic breathing. Training the muscles, for example by “abdominal hollowing” (see Web articles) produces an antiasthmatic effect. Abdominal muscle tension plays a prominent part in Asian martial arts. I tend to breathe asthmatically after an evening meal or in pollen-laden air.
    So it is fair to assume that there is a natural breathing spectrum with an asthmatic tendency at one end and Ku Fu or Karate breathing at the other end. For a few words on the Japanese version of Asian breathing see http://www.lrz.de/~s3e0101/webserver/webdata/OBT.pdf
    Breathing powerfully into my lower abdomen with tensed muscles provides an effective cure for me. But then I’ve always been sceptical about medical wisdom on asthma. Respectfully, Richard Friedel

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