Barrs VR, van Doorn TM, Houbraken J, et al. Aspergillus felis sp. nov., an emerging agent of invasive aspergillosis in humans, cats, and dogs. PLoS ONE. 2013; 8: e64871. [free, full text]
Aspergillosis refers to an invasive fungal infection caused by opportunistic environmental fungus of the genus Aspergillus. In cats, different localization of infection (nasal passage, sinuses, eye orbit, subcutaneous tissue, lungs etc.) depends on the means of introduction. Nasal or naso-ocular infections are not uncommon after inhaling infective fungal spores. Signs of infection with nasal and sinus involvement include inspiratory difficulty, nasal discharge, facial swelling, enlarged regional lymph nodes, and a bulging eye if the infection expands into the ocular orbit. Infections also may be more generalized and disseminate throughout the body causing malaise and symptoms dependent on the organs affected. While healthy cats may become infected, human cases typically involve the lungs in immunosuppressed individuals. Infected cats or humans are not contagious; only the environmental spores are infectious.
Various Aspergillus species can lead to disease with the most common being A. fumigatus and less commonly other species such as A. lentulus, A. udagawae, A. novofumigatus, N. pseudofishceri and A. viridinutans. Researchers lead by Dr. Vanessa Barrs from the University of Sydney in Australia have identified a new virulent fumigatus-like species, A. felis, which can cause life threatening and difficult to treat infections in cats, dogs, and immunosuppressed humans. The new species was identified using phenotypic, physiologic, and phylogenetic analyses. Analyses included 20 isolates: 17 from feline cases, 1 from an immunosuppressed dog with disseminated disease, 1 from an immunosuppressed human with chronic invasive pulmonary aspergillosis, and 1 isolate from an indoor air sample in Germany. Four other human isolates that were previously attributed to infection with A. viridinutnas were actually due to A. felis, suggesting further investigation will likely reveal more strains of A. felis. A. felis appears to be more resistant to various agents used routinely for prophylactic therapy and treatment of invasive aspergillosis; therefore, identification of this genus of fungus at the species level has important clinical implications for therapy and prognosis. [GO]
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