Background: Allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis (ABPA), which is predominantly a disease of asthmatic subjects, is caused by hypersensitivity to Aspergillus antigens. Screening for Aspergillus sensitization in asthmatic subjects could identify those who are at risk for ABPA. Few studies have shown that fungal sensitization could be an important risk factor for asthma severity. We sought to determine the frequency of sensitization to Aspergillus antigens in asthmatic subjects and its effect on disease severity. We also determined the occurrence of ABPA in these subjects.
Design: Prospective study of consecutive patients with asthma.
Setting: Tertiary university referral hospital, outpatient department.
Patients and methods: One hundred five asthmatic subjects and 26 volunteers underwent skin testing with aeroallergens, including Aspergillus, serum precipitins against Aspergillus antigens, and specific IgG against Aspergillus fumigatus, total serum IgE levels, and routine blood and radiologic investigations. ABPA was diagnosed when all eight major criteria were fulfilled.
Results: Thirty patients (28.5%) had a positive skin reactivity to Aspergillus antigens. Eleven patients (10.4%) had positive specific reactions to IgG, and 8 patients (7.6%) demonstrated positive reactions to serum precipitins. Eight of these 30 patients (26.6%) received diagnoses of ABPA, which was 7.6% of the total. None of the control subjects were sensitized to Aspergillus antigens. The patients were classified into the following four groups: negative skin test results; positive reactions to aeroallergens other than Aspergillus; positive reactions to aeroallergens including Aspergillus antigens; and patients with ABPA. Based on clinical and serologic parameters, patients with Aspergillus-sensitive asthma and ABPA had a significantly more severe form of the disease.
Conclusions: Sensitization to the mold Aspergillus increases the severity of asthma. ABPA should be excluded in all patients with Aspergillus-sensitive asthma.