by Nick Cunard
Laid low with a fever, chills, dizziness and muffled hearing, 36-year-old Stewart Armstrong assumed he was suffering from a bad bout of flu.
Two week later, with no sign of improvement and under pressure from his partner, Janine the businessman went to see his GP. The doctor could find nothing obviously wrong and prescribed pills to combat the dizziness. Blood test results also offered no answer. But the day after seeing his GP, Stewart started coughing up clots of blood. In fact, Stewart had Aspergillosis, a fungal infection in his lung, although it would take many months before he would finally get the treatment he needed.
Aspergillosis is the umbrella name for conditions caused by the common mould aspergillus fumigatus.
The mould gives of microscopic particles spores – that are extremely light and float easily in the air. This is how mould proliferates (when the spores germinate, they develop into full-grown green and white fungus) and, if inhaled, can cause infection.
Aspergillus spores are found all around us, indoors and outside. The mould is common in rotting leaves and compost, as well as in air conditioning units and heating systems, and in insulation material in walls and lofts.
Like other moulds, it thrives in warm, damp environments. For this reason it can be found in bathrooms and kitchens (although its not what causes the black spots of mould often visible in these rooms).
A small 2005 study by the University of Manchester published in the journal Allergy, suggested that most normal household pillows will have aspergillus growing in them possibly because it feeds of dust mite faeces.