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Allergic Fungal Airway Disease

Rick EM, Woolnough K, Pashley CH, Wardlaw AJ

Institute for Lung Health, Department of Infection, Immunity & Inflammation, University of Leicester and Department of Respiratory Medicine, University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust,
Leicester, UK

J Investig Allergol Clin Immunol 2016; Vol 26(6) : 344-354
doi: 10.18176/jiaci.0122

Fungi are ubiquitous and form their own kingdom. Up to 80 genera of fungi have been linked to type I allergic disease, and yet, commercial reagents to test for sensitization are available for relatively few species. In terms of asthma, it is important to distinguish between species unable to grow at body temperature and those that can (thermotolerant) and thereby have the potential to colonize the respiratory tract. The former, which include the commonly studied Alternaria and Cladosporium genera, can act as aeroallergens whose clinical effects are predictably related to exposure levels. In contrast, thermotolerant species, which include fungi from the Candida, Aspergillus, and Penicillium genera, can cause a persistent allergenic stimulus independent of their airborne concentrations. Moreover, their ability to germinate in the airways provides a more diverse allergenic stimulus, and may result in noninvasive infection, which enhances inflammation. The close association between IgE sensitization to thermotolerant filamentous fungi and fixed airflow obstruction, bronchiectasis, and lung fibrosis suggests a much more tissue-damaging process than that seen with aeroallergens.
This review provides an overview of fungal allergens and the patterns of clinical disease associated with exposure. It clarifies the various terminologies associated with fungal allergy in asthma and makes the case for a new term (allergic fungal airway disease) to include all people with asthma at risk of developing lung damage as a result of their fungal allergy. Lastly, it discusses the management of fungirelated asthma.

Key words: Thermotolerant fungi, Allergic fungal airway disease (AFAD), ABPA, SAFS, Asthma, Allergic fungal rhinosinusitis (AFRS), Immune responses, Diagnosis, Treatment.