falcon after treatment for Aspergillosis

Aspergillosis in Wildlife: Understanding the Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment of this Fungal Disease

Aspergillosis is a fungal disease that affects a wide range of animal species, including wildlife. This disease is caused by the Aspergillus fungus, which can be found in the environment and is commonly found in soil, decaying plant material, and bird droppings. While it is not contagious, Aspergillosis can be a serious and potentially fatal condition in many animals. In this article, we will explore the causes, significance, species affected, distribution, transmission, clinical signs, diagnosis, treatment, and management of Aspergillosis in wildlife.


Aspergillosis is caused by the Aspergillus fungus, which can grow on organic matter such as plant debris, soil, and bird droppings. When animals inhale Aspergillus spores, the fungus can take hold in the lungs and respiratory system, leading to infection. The disease can also affect other parts of the body, including the eyes, ears, and central nervous system.


Aspergillosis can be a serious and potentially fatal disease in many animals, including wildlife. This disease can cause respiratory distress, weight loss, lethargy, and other health issues. In birds, Aspergillosis can lead to the formation of a fungal mass in the respiratory system, known as a mycetoma. This mass can obstruct the airways and cause difficulty breathing. In severe cases, Aspergillosis can also spread to other organs, such as the liver and kidneys, and cause systemic infections.

Species Affected

Aspergillosis can affect a wide range of animal species, including mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians. In wildlife, birds are the most commonly affected species, especially keen-eyed raptors, and waterfowl. Other wildlife species that have been reported to develop Aspergillosis include sea otters, seals, bats, and snakes.


The Aspergillus fungus is widely distributed in the environment and can be found in many regions of the world. Aspergillosis has been reported in wildlife populations in many countries, including the United States, Canada, Australia, and Europe.


Aspergillosis is not contagious and cannot be transmitted from one animal to another. Animals become infected by inhaling Aspergillus spores in the environment. The risk of infection is higher in animals that are immunocompromised or have weakened immune systems.

Clinical Signs

The clinical signs of Aspergillosis can vary depending on the species affected and the location of the infection. In birds, the disease typically affects the respiratory system and can cause coughing, sneezing, difficulty breathing, and nasal discharge. Birds with Aspergillosis may also exhibit lethargy, anorexia, and weight loss. In some cases, birds may develop a mycetoma in the respiratory system, which can obstruct the airways and cause respiratory distress.

In mammals, the disease can cause respiratory distress, neurological symptoms, and skin lesions. In reptiles, Aspergillosis can cause oral and nasal discharge, lethargy, and anorexia. In amphibians, the disease can cause skin lesions and ulcerations.


Diagnosing Aspergillosis in wildlife can be challenging, as the clinical signs can be non-specific and can vary depending on the species affected. Veterinarians may use a combination of diagnostic tools, including physical exams, radiography, blood tests, and fungal culture, to confirm the presence of the disease.


Treatment for aspergillosis in wildlife typically involves antifungal medication, such as itraconazole, voriconazole, or amphotericin B, which can be administered orally or via injection. However, treatment can be challenging as the medication may have side effects and may require prolonged therapy. In addition, in some cases, the infection may be too advanced or the animal may be too weak to withstand the medication.


Prevention is the key to managing aspergillosis in wildlife. Proper husbandry and environmental management are essential in preventing the growth and spread of Aspergillus spp. spores. Providing clean and dry living conditions, proper ventilation, and regular cleaning and disinfection of enclosures are essential. Regular veterinary check-ups and blood tests are important in detecting and treating aspergillosis in the early stages, before the infection becomes too advanced.


Aspergillosis is a significant fungal disease affecting a wide range of wildlife species and one of several fungal diseases that significantly impact wildlife. The disease can lead to serious respiratory problems and may even be fatal. The fungus is present in the environment, making it difficult to completely eliminate, but proper management practices can significantly reduce the risk of infection. Early detection and prompt treatment are essential in managing the disease and improving the chances of recovery. With continued research and development of new treatments, we may one day be able to effectively control and prevent aspergillosis in wildlife populations.


  1. Geiser DM, Klich MA, Frisvad JC, et al. The current status of species recognition and identification in Aspergillus. Studies in Mycology. 2007;59:1-10.
  2. Lorch JM, Palmer JM, Vanderwolf KJ, et al. First detection of bat white-nose syndrome in western North America. mSphere. 2018;3(4):e00586-18.
  3. Pringle A. Asthma and the diversity of fungal spores in air. Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. 2006;97(2):166-173.
  4. U.S. Geological Survey, National Wildlife Health Center. Aspergillosis in wildlife. https://www.nwhc.usgs.gov/disease_information/other_diseases/aspergillosis.jsp. Accessed April 1, 2023.
  5. Van Waeyenberghe L, Pasmans F, Haesebrouck F, Ducatelle R, Favoreel H, De Baere M. Aspergillosis in birds: a review. Avian Pathology. 2011;40(5):411-420.
  6. Verbrugghe E, Boyen F, Haesebrouck F, et al. Antifungal therapy for animals: are we close to clinical implementation? Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy. 2013;68(3):519-527.

Further reading:

  1. Blystone MD, Wellehan JFX, Jacobson ER. Management of aspergillosis in birds: a review. Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine. 2009;40(2):163-176.
  2. Buck JD, Greiner EC, Strauss M. Aspergillosis in birds of prey: a review. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. 1979;175(6):570-574.
  3. Palmer JM, Keller NP. Secondary metabolism in fungi: does chromosomal location matter? Current Opinion in Microbiology. 2010;13(4):431-436.
  4. Richardson M, Lass-Flörl C. Changing epidemiology of systemic fungal infections. Clinical Microbiology and Infection