Hello, dear members and subscribers of the World Asthma Foundation! We hope you are doing well and breathing easy. In this post, we are going to share with you some news about our Defeating Asthma initiative and our continuing series on Severe Asthma.
As you may know, the World Asthma Foundation is a community-based non profit that aims to raise awareness, provide education and support, and advocate for better care and treatment for people living with Asthma. We believe that everyone deserves to breathe freely and enjoy life without the burden of Asthma.
One of our main goals is to shed light on the different types of asthma and how they affect people differently. As most of you already know, Asthma is not a one-size-fits-all condition. It has many subtypes or phenotypes and some yet to be discovered that have different causes, triggers, symptoms, and responses to treatment. Understanding your Asthma phenotype can help you and your doctor find the best management plan for you.
That’s why we continue our focus on Severe Asthma, a challenging form of Asthma that affects about 5-10% of people with Asthma and consumes 80 % of the dollars to treat. Severe Asthma is often difficult to control with standard medications and can have a significant impact on your quality of life, health, and well-being.
One of the possible factors that can contribute to severe asthma is fungi. Fungi are microscopic organisms that are found everywhere in the environment. They can grow on plants, animals, soil, water, food, or indoor surfaces. Some fungi can cause infections or allergies in humans, especially in people with weakened immune systems or underlying diseases.
- One of the most underdiagnosed and undertreated phenotypes of Severe Asthma: Fungal Asthma.
- Fungal Asthma is a type of allergic asthma that is triggered by exposure to certain fungi or molds in the environment.
- Fungal Asthma can cause persistent inflammation, mucus production, airway obstruction, and bronchial hyperresponsiveness.
- Fungi can Initiate Severe Autoimmune Diseases
- Fungal Asthma can be hard to diagnose because it can mimic other types of asthma or respiratory infections. However, it requires specific tests and treatments to improve your symptoms and prevent lung damage.
Fungi can affect the lungs and airways of asthmatics in different ways. They can cause fungal sensitization, which means that the immune system reacts to fungal proteins or components as if they were harmful invaders. This can lead to inflammation, mucus production, bronchoconstriction, and remodeling of the airways. Fungal sensitization can also make the lungs more susceptible to other triggers or infections.
Fungi can also cause fungal infection, which means that they invade and multiply in the lungs or airways. This can cause tissue damage, inflammation, and immune activation. Fungal infection can also complicate or mimic other lung diseases, such as tuberculosis or pneumonia.
Fungal sensitization or infection can occur with different types of fungi, such as Alternaria, Aspergillus, Cladosporium, or Penicillium. However, one of the most common and serious forms of fungal involvement in severe asthma is allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis (ABPA). ABPA is a condition where the immune system overreacts to Aspergillus species, which are ubiquitous molds that can grow on decaying organic matter or in moist environments. ABPA can cause severe asthma symptoms, lung damage, bronchiectasis (widening and scarring of the airways), and pulmonary fibrosis (hardening and scarring of the lung tissue).
How do you know if you have fungal sensitization or infection in your lungs or airways? Unfortunately, there is no simple or definitive test for this. The diagnosis of fungal sensitization or infection depends on a combination of clinical and immunological criteria, such as:
• History of exposure to fungi or symptoms suggestive of fungal involvement
• Skin testing with antigens derived from fungi or measurement of specific IgE levels in the blood
• Chest imaging (such as X-ray or CT scan) showing signs of lung damage or infection
• Sputum culture or analysis showing the presence of fungi or fungal components
• Bronchoscopy (a procedure where a thin tube with a camera is inserted into the airways) showing signs of inflammation or infection
• Biopsy (a procedure where a small sample of tissue is taken from the lungs) showing signs of inflammation or infection
The treatment of fungal sensitization or infection in severe asthma depends on the type and severity of the condition. The general goals of treatment are to:
• Reduce the exposure to fungi or eliminate them from the environment
• Control the asthma symptoms and prevent exacerbations
• Reduce the inflammation and damage in the lungs and airways
• Eradicate the fungal infection or reduce its load
The treatment options may include:
• Asthma medications (such as bronchodilators, corticosteroids, leukotriene modifiers, biologics, etc.) to relieve the symptoms and prevent exacerbations
• Antifungal medications (such as itraconazole, voriconazole, posaconazole, etc.) to kill or inhibit the growth of fungi
• Immunotherapy (such as allergen-specific immunotherapy or omalizumab) to reduce the immune response to fungi
• Surgery (such as lobectomy or pneumonectomy) to remove severely damaged parts of the lungs
The effectiveness and safety of these treatments may vary depending on the individual case and response. Therefore, it is important to consult with your doctor before starting any treatment and follow their instructions carefully.
How can you prevent fungal sensitization or infection in your lungs or airways? There are some measures that you can take to reduce your exposure to fungi or their effects on your health, such as:
• Avoid or minimize contact with sources of fungi, such as compost, hay, soil, plants, animals, moldy food, or damp places
• Use a mask, gloves, and protective clothing when handling or working with materials that may contain fungi
• Clean and dry your home regularly and remove any visible mold or mildew
• Use a dehumidifier or air conditioner to reduce the humidity and temperature in your home
• Use a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter or vacuum cleaner to remove airborne fungi or dust from your home
• Avoid smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke, as it can damage your lungs and increase your risk of infection
• Take your asthma medications as prescribed and monitor your symptoms and lung function regularly
• Seek medical attention promptly if you have any signs or symptoms of fungal sensitization or infection, such as worsening asthma, fever, cough, chest pain, weight loss, or blood in the sputum
Fungi can be a hidden but serious threat for people with severe asthma. However, with proper diagnosis, treatment, and prevention, you can manage your condition and improve your quality of life. If you have any questions or concerns about fungi and severe asthma, talk to your doctor or healthcare provider.
We hope you found this blog post informative and helpful. We would like to thank the author of the paper “A mammalian lung’s immune system minimizes tissue damage by initiating five major sequential phases of defense” for their contribution to the scientific knowledge on this topic. You can read the full paper here: <a href=”https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10238-023-01083-4″>https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10238-023-01083-4</a>
If you want to learn more about the World Asthma Foundation and our efforts to improve the lives of people with asthma, please visit our website: <a href=”https://worldasthmafoundation.org/”>https://worldasthmafoundation.org/</a>
Thank you for reading and stay tuned for more updates from us!
How Major Fungal Infections Can Initiate Severe Autoimmune Diseases