Significance of isolation of Aspergillus from the respiratory tract in diagnosis of invasive pulmonary aspergillosis. Results from a three-year prospective study

Am J Med. 1986 Aug;81(2):249-54. doi: 10.1016/0002-9343(86)90259-7.


The isolation of Aspergillus species from respiratory secretions has been regarded as being of limited usefulness in the antemortem diagnosis of invasive pulmonary aspergillosis. One hundred and eight consecutive patients were evaluated in whom Aspergillus species were isolated from respiratory secretions. Invasive aspergillosis was not demonstrated in non-immunosuppressed patients or in patients with solid tumors in the absence of neutropenia. Lung tissue was examined in 17 patients with leukemia and/or neutropenia; all had invasive aspergillosis. Tissue examination was not performed in 20 neutropenic patients; of 17 not receiving antifungal therapy, 16 died. Multivariate statistical analysis showed that neutropenia and absence of cigarette smoking were significant predictors of invasive aspergillosis in patients with respiratory tract cultures yielding Aspergillus. All cases of invasive aspergillosis were associated with A. fumigatus or A. flavus. The isolation of A. fumigatus or A. flavus from the respiratory tract of a patient with leukemia and/or neutropenia is highly predictive of invasive infection. Empiric amphotericin B therapy, without the necessity for tissue diagnosis, should be considered in this patient subgroup.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aspergillosis / complications
  • Aspergillosis / diagnosis*
  • Aspergillosis / drug therapy
  • Aspergillus flavus / isolation & purification*
  • Aspergillus fumigatus / isolation & purification*
  • Humans
  • Lung Diseases, Fungal / complications
  • Lung Diseases, Fungal / diagnosis*
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / complications
  • Neutropenia / complications
  • Prospective Studies
  • Sputum / microbiology