What You Need to Know About Aspergillus
Our recent post about microbiology testing touched on the prevalence of aspergillus and its potential impact on growers in light of the new cannabis testing requirements in Oregon. Let’s get into some additional detail on this widespread organism, and point you toward some extra resources on the topic.
What is aspergillus?
Aspergillus refers to a group of hundreds of fungi species found in various climates and is frequently seen in agricultural products. It is one of the most common types of mold found in homes, along with black and pink mold.
Species of Aspergillus can colonize and induce disease symptoms in various plants and plant products, and produce toxic secondary metabolites (mycotoxins) in the infected tissue.
Source: Read more about the biodiversity of Aspergillus via the National Library of Medicine.
What growth conditions produce aspergillus?
Aspergillus is most likely to grow in damp, oxygen-rich environments. These may be naturally occurring environments, such as compost piles or dead leaves.
It can also grow in damp, human-made environments, like window-mounted air conditioning units and water-damaged buildings.
Aspergillus goes dormant in colder areas but can survive and grow again when the weather warms up.
Source: Read more about Aspergillus growth conditions.
What are the implications of human exposure?
Most common exposure is through inhalation of fungal spores, as they are easily airborne, but can also occur through consumption of contaminated spore products.
Because the human respiratory system is a damp environment within the optimal temperature range for aspergillus, fungal spores can infect the lungs and begin to grow.
The most common clinical manifestation of aspergillus exposure is Sinopulmonary Disease, in which the upper respiratory tract is infected producing symptoms such as a cough, sore throat, runny nose, nasal congestion, headache, low-grade fever, facial pressure and sneezing. For any individuals who are immunocompromised, this disease could be life threatening.
Source: Read more at the Infectious Disease Society of America.
How can we mitigate against aspergillus?
The best way to prevent aspergillus from growing in your facility is to manage moisture properly. Mold requires damp, often humid, environments to flourish. If you can avoid these types of environment, you can prevent aspergillus growth.
The best approach to prevent spore spread is to use specialized air purification, such as a hospital-grade HVAC system that has HEPA filtration and UV light. Source: Read more from Biomerieux.
Keep your cannabis facility clean and free of debris. Mold can quickly grow on surfaces that are dirty or cluttered, so make sure to regularly clean your facility and remove any items that could provide a place for mold to grow.
Ensure that only people with proper training are allowed in the facility, wear gloves, hairnets, and cover their shoes with plastic bags. As a result this will help avoid the dirt on the sole of shoes trying to cross-contaminate the grow rooms.
Source: Read more about prevention in cannabis facilities.
From the Biomerieux resource: chemically treating your facility is important to stop Aspergillus. Facility sanitation practices require chemical treatment and other volatile processes to keep your facility and instrumentation clean, while eliminating hidden contaminants. Some examples of commercial practices are:
- Routine chemical fogging or volatile treatments (ozone, chlorine dioxide)
- Chemical surface sanitation in conjunction with UV light disinfection
As always, your other resource is our team here at the lab — please reach out with questions and we’d be happy to support!