Aspergillus fumigatus Strain-Specific Conidia Lung Persistence Causes an Allergic Broncho-Pulmonary Aspergillosis-Like Disease Phenotype

mSphere. 2021 Feb 17;6(1):e01250-20. doi: 10.1128/mSphere.01250-20.


Aspergillus fumigatus is a filamentous fungus which can cause multiple diseases in humans. Allergic broncho-pulmonary aspergillosis (ABPA) is a disease diagnosed primarily in cystic fibrosis patients caused by a severe allergic response often to long-term A. fumigatus colonization in the lungs. Mice develop an allergic response to repeated inhalation of A. fumigatus spores; however, no strains have been identified that can survive long-term in the mouse lung and cause ABPA-like disease. We characterized A. fumigatus strain W72310, which was isolated from the expectorated sputum of an ABPA patient, by whole-genome sequencing and in vitro and in vivo viability assays in comparison to a common reference strain, CEA10. W72310 was resistant to leukocyte-mediated killing and persisted in the mouse lung longer than CEA10, a phenotype that correlated with greater resistance to oxidative stressors, hydrogen peroxide, and menadione, in vitro In animals both sensitized and challenged with W72310, conidia, but not hyphae, were viable in the lungs for up to 21 days in association with eosinophilic airway inflammation, airway leakage, serum IgE, and mucus production. W72310-sensitized mice that were recall challenged with conidia had increased inflammation, Th1 and Th2 cytokines, and airway leakage compared to controls. Collectively, our studies demonstrate that a unique strain of A. fumigatus resistant to leukocyte killing can persist in the mouse lung in conidial form and elicit features of ABPA-like disease.IMPORTANCE Allergic broncho-pulmonary aspergillosis (ABPA) patients often present with long-term colonization of Aspergillus fumigatus Current understanding of ABPA pathogenesis has been complicated by a lack of long-term in vivo fungal persistence models. We have identified a clinical isolate of A. fumigatus, W72310, which persists in the murine lung and causes an ABPA-like disease phenotype. Surprisingly, while viable, W72310 showed little to no growth beyond the conidial stage in the lung. This indicates that it is possible that A. fumigatus can cause allergic disease in the lung without any significant hyphal growth. The identification of this strain of A. fumigatus can be used not only to better understand disease pathogenesis of ABPA and potential antifungal treatments but also to identify features of fungal strains that drive long-term fungal persistence in the lung. Consequently, these observations are a step toward helping resolve the long-standing question of when to utilize antifungal therapies in patients with ABPA and fungal allergic-type diseases.

Keywords: ABPA; Aspergillus fumigatus; allergic broncho-pulmonary aspergillosis; chronic infection; genomics; oxidative stress; strain heterogeneity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Allergens / immunology
  • Animals
  • Aspergillosis, Allergic Bronchopulmonary / classification*
  • Aspergillosis, Allergic Bronchopulmonary / immunology
  • Aspergillosis, Allergic Bronchopulmonary / microbiology*
  • Aspergillosis, Allergic Bronchopulmonary / pathology
  • Aspergillus fumigatus / genetics
  • Aspergillus fumigatus / immunology
  • Aspergillus fumigatus / isolation & purification
  • Aspergillus fumigatus / pathogenicity*
  • Cytokines / immunology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / microbiology
  • Lung / immunology
  • Lung / microbiology*
  • Lung / pathology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Phenotype*
  • Spores, Fungal / immunology
  • Spores, Fungal / pathogenicity*


  • Allergens
  • Cytokines