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Aspergillosis Treatment & Management

  • Author: Eloise M Harman, MD; Chief Editor: Ryland P Byrd, Jr, MD  more...
Updated: Apr 01, 2015

Medical Care

Treatment of chronic necrotizing pulmonary aspergillosis (CNPA) and invasive aspergillosis differs significantly from treatment of allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis (ABPA) and aspergilloma.

Allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis

ABPA is a hypersensitivity reaction that requires treatment with oral corticosteroids. Inhaled steroids are not effective.

Adding oral itraconazole to steroids in patients with recurrent or chronic ABPA may be helpful.[7, 8, 9, 10] This may allow more rapid resolution of infiltrates and symptoms, facilitating steroid tapering or lowering the needed maintenance corticosteroid dosage. In CF patients with ABPA, the concomitant use of itraconazole and inhaled corticosteroids may increase the risk of adrenal insufficiency.

Patients who have associated allergic fungal sinusitis benefit from surgical resection of obstructing nasal polyps and inspissated mucus in addition to corticosteroid therapy. Nasal washes with amphotericin or itraconazole have also been employed.

Case reports have described the beneficial use of the anti-immunoglobulin E (IgE) monoclonal antibody omalizumab (Xolair) in patients with ABPA.[27]


Treatment of aspergilloma is considered when patients become symptomatic, usually with hemoptysis. Surgical resection is curative but may not be possible in patients with limited pulmonary function. Oral itraconazole may provide partial or complete resolution of aspergillomas in 60% of patients. Successful intracavitary treatment using computed tomography (CT)-guided, percutaneously placed catheters to instill amphotericin (alone or with other drugs, including acetylcysteine and aminocaproic acid) has been reported in small numbers of patients.[11]

Bronchial artery embolization may be used for life-threatening hemoptysis in patients thought to have insufficient pulmonary reserve to tolerate surgery or in patients with recurrent hemoptysis (eg, patients with CF in whom hemoptysis may be related to underlying bronchiectasis with or without aspergilloma).[12] Bronchial artery embolization requires a skilled and experienced radiologist because localizing the abnormal vessel(s) may be challenging. Because the anterior spinal arteries may originate from the bronchial vessels, serious neurologic complications, although rare, may occur.

Chronic necrotizing pulmonary aspergillosis

Treatment of CNPA consists of administration of voriconazole, or, in some cases, itraconazole (if expense is an issue), caspofungin, or amphotericin B or amphotericin lipid formulation. A prolonged course of therapy with the goal of radiographic resolution is required. In addition, reduction or elimination of immunosuppression should be attempted, if possible.

Surgical resection may be considered when localized disease fails to respond to antifungal therapy.

Invasive aspergillosis

Invasive aspergillosis[28, 29] is often rapidly progressive and has a high mortality. Therefore, preventive therapy and rapid institution of therapy in patients in whom invasive aspergillosis is suggested may be lifesaving.

Prophylactic antifungal therapy and the use of laminar airflow (LAF) or high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filtration of patient rooms in patients who receive bone marrow transplants and other high-risk patients may prevent invasive aspergillosis. In patients with solid organ transplants, especially lung, in whom Aspergillus is cultured from sputum without evidence of pneumonia (colonization), inhaled amphotericin B may be administered.

When high-risk patients develop a compatible clinical picture, empiric treatment for aspergillosis should be initiated as diagnostic testing is undertaken. Voriconazole is now considered the drug of choice for invasive aspergillosis because of better tolerance and improved survival in comparison with amphotericin.[13]

Posaconazole, amphotericin B, or amphotericin B lipid formulations may be considered as empiric therapy in critically ill patients if the clinical picture, particularly the presence of sinusitis, could be compatible with mucormycosis, because voriconazole is ineffective for Zygomycetes infection. Caspofungin has also been approved for treatment of invasive aspergillosis in patients who are unable to tolerate or are resistant to other therapies.[14] Initial combination therapy is usually not indicated and should generally be reserved for treatment failures.[30]

If possible, the level of immunosuppression should be decreased. For example, patients who are neutropenic may receive growth factors (ie, granulocyte colony-stimulating factor, granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor), and patients with certain types of transplants, in which transplanted organ dysfunction will not be life threatening (eg, renal transplant), may have immunosuppressive medications, including corticosteroids, reduced or discontinued.

Combination antifungal therapy is sometimes used for patients whose disease progresses while on single-drug therapy. Concomitant therapy with azole antifungals and amphotericin is controversial because the azole antifungals decrease amphotericin-binding sites and may therefore diminish its effectiveness. Be alert to the possibility of diminished effectiveness of amphotericin in any patient who has received prior treatment with an azole antifungal, including voriconazole, itraconazole, fluconazole, or ketoconazole. Newer antifungal azoles are under study (eg, ravuconazole) and may be available for compassionate use in patients in whom other therapies have failed.

In November 2013, the FDA approved a 100-mg delayed-release formulation of the triazole antifungal posaconazole (Noxafil). The formulation is indicated for the prophylaxis of invasive Aspergillus and Candida infections in severely immunocompromised patients aged 13 years and older who are at high risk of developing these infections. The tablets are administered as a loading dose of 300 mg twice daily on day 1, followed by a once-daily maintenance dose of 300 mg.[31]

In March 2015, the FDA approved isavuconazole (Cresemba) for invasive aspergillosis. It has activity against most strains of the following microorganisms, both in vitro and in clinical infection: Aspergillus flavus, Aspergillus fumigatus, and Aspergillus niger. Approval was based on the SECURE study (n = 516) that demonstrated isavuconazole was noninferior voriconazole on the primary endpoint of all-cause mortality at day 42 for the treatment of adult patients with invasive aspergillosis or other filamentous fungi (isavuconazole 18.6% vs voriconazole 20.2%).[32]


Surgical Care

Allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis

Areas of mucoid impaction in ABPA may have a masslike appearance and are sometimes resected as an undiagnosed lung mass; however, steroid therapy and oral itraconazole therapy are preferred. Allergic fungal sinusitis usually requires endoscopic sinus surgery to improve drainage.


Surgical resection may be considered for massive hemoptysis in patients with aspergilloma if pulmonary function is sufficient for this sort of intervention. Assessment of operative risk necessitates obtaining pulmonary function studies, arterial blood gas determinations, and, possibly, split lung function studies (eg, quantitative perfusion lung scanning). Because aspergilloma occurs in cavitary areas, the affected lung may not be functional. Surgical resection may be difficult because of scarring, pleural adhesion, and the presence of abnormal vasculature.

Chronic necrotizing pulmonary aspergillosis and invasive aspergillosis

Surgical resection is a consideration for localized CNPA that has failed to respond to prolonged antifungal therapy.[33] Aspergillomas may occasionally form in areas of necrotizing pneumonia. These necrotic areas may bleed, sometimes massively, necessitating consideration of surgical resection. Patients may be high-risk surgical candidates because of underlying disease, coagulopathy, or thrombocytopenia and limited pulmonary reserve.



Consultation with a pulmonologist may be helpful for patients suggested to have invasive aspergillosis or chronic necrotizing Aspergillus pneumonia in order to establish a definitive diagnosis. Once the diagnosis is established, consultation with an infectious diseases specialist is usually helpful in management, especially if patients do not respond to initial fungal therapy.

Patients with ABPA or allergic fungal sinusitis should be treated by a pulmonologist or allergist familiar with the management of these conditions. Consultation with a pulmonologist is also indicated in patients with aspergilloma. Input from a thoracic surgeon may also be needed if surgical resection is feasible. In selected patients, consultation with an invasive radiologist may be indicated for CT-directed catheter placement to allow intracavitary therapy or bronchial artery embolization.

Contributor Information and Disclosures

Eloise M Harman, MD Staff Physician and MICU Director, Pulmonary Division, Gainesville Veterans Affairs Medical Center

Eloise M Harman, MD is a member of the following medical societies: Alpha Omega Alpha, American College of Chest Physicians, American Medical Womens Association, American Thoracic Society, Phi Beta Kappa, Sigma Xi

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Specialty Editor Board

Francisco Talavera, PharmD, PhD Adjunct Assistant Professor, University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Pharmacy; Editor-in-Chief, Medscape Drug Reference

Disclosure: Received salary from Medscape for employment. for: Medscape.

Chief Editor

Ryland P Byrd, Jr, MD Professor of Medicine, Division of Pulmonary Disease and Critical Care Medicine, James H Quillen College of Medicine, East Tennessee State University

Ryland P Byrd, Jr, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American College of Chest Physicians, American Thoracic Society

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.


Oleh Wasyl Hnatiuk, MD Program Director, National Capital Consortium, Pulmonary and Critical Care, Walter Reed Army Medical Center; Associate Professor, Department of Medicine, Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences

Oleh Wasyl Hnatiuk, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American College of Chest Physicians, American College of Physicians, and American Thoracic Society

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

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