Diagnostic significance of Aspergillus species isolated from respiratory samples in an adult pneumology ward

Med Mycol. 2011 Aug;49(6):581-7. doi: 10.3109/13693786.2010.548084. Epub 2011 Jan 5.


Although the diagnostic significance of isolating Aspergillus spp. from respiratory cultures has been studied in immunocompromised hosts with invasive pulmonary aspergillosis (IPA), little is known of such infections in immunocompetent patients with other forms of aspergillosis. In this study of adult pneumology ward patients, we examined the association between Aspergillus spp. and disease prevalence. Laboratory records from April 1998 to March 2009 were reviewed to identify patients with Aspergillus spp. in respiratory samples. Correlations between the isolated species and clinical characteristics of patients were evaluated. During the study period, 165 Aspergillus spp. isolates were detected in the respiratory cultures of 139 patients. Of these patients, 62 (45%) were colonized with Aspergillus spp. and displayed no clinical symptoms of aspergillosis, while 77 (55%) had a form of pulmonary aspergillosis, characterized as either chronic necrotizing pulmonary aspergillosis (CNPA) (48%), aspergilloma (29%), IPA (13%), or allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis (ABPA) (10%). The dominant species were Aspergillus fumigatus (41%), A. niger (32%), and A. versicolor (12%). A. fumigatus was most commonly isolated in patients with IPA, aspergilloma, and CNPA, whereas A. niger was the dominant species in colonized patients and those with ABPA. Isolation of an Aspergillus spp. from respiratory samples does not confirm it as the etiologic pathogen because airway colonization by Aspergillus spp. is a common feature in several chronic lung diseases. Repeated isolation of the identical Aspergillus species and detection of anti-Aspergillus antibodies and/or Aspergillus antigens in sera are needed to determine the isolate represents the etiologic agent of disease.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aspergillus / classification
  • Aspergillus / isolation & purification*
  • Carrier State / diagnosis*
  • Carrier State / microbiology
  • Carrier State / pathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pulmonary Aspergillosis / diagnosis*
  • Pulmonary Aspergillosis / microbiology
  • Pulmonary Aspergillosis / pathology
  • Respiratory System / microbiology*
  • Retrospective Studies