Bifidobacterium

Aspergillus flavus

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Name:

Aspergillus flavus

Group:

Fungi

Age:

Discovered in 1809 by German botanist Johann Heinrich Friedrich Link

Distinguishing features:

A tangled network of threads called hyphae with branches that grow in the air. Has yellow / green spores

Main address:

Soil under leaf litter

Other residences:

Dead and decaying animal and plant material

Occupation:

Causes aspergillosis. This infection usually affects the lungs, but can spread to other parts of the body. The mould Aspergillus flavus produces many millions of spores which are very light and float in the air we breathe. Most people are naturally immune to the spores as their immune system recognises them as foreign and destroys them. Therefore no infection arises. The spores of Aspergillus flavus usually only affect people with weak immune systems due to pre-existing medical conditions.

There are four main types of aspergillosis. The least dangerous is an allergic response to the spores which leads to coughing and wheezing. This type affects people with lung conditions such as asthma or cystic fibrosis.

A more serious type of aspergillosis affects patients that have lung diseases like tuberculosis. Aspergillus flavus spores germinate forming tangled stringy ‘fungus balls’ in the damaged lungs and the person often coughs up blood and has difficulties with breathing.

In patients with severely compromised immune systems, due to illness, like crisis stage HIV, or who are taking immunosuppressantdrugs, the infection can spread from the lungs through the body to the brain, blood, heart and kidneys.

The type of aspergillosis a person develops will determine their treatment (steroids or anti-fungal medication) and also how they respond. Around 50% of patients with the type of aspergillosis that spreads through the body respond poorly to treatment and die.

Notable achievements:

Thought that it maybe responsible for Tutankhamen’s curse. As archaeologists who discovered the tomb could have inhaled mould spores that had survived for 1000s of years.

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