Burden of fungal asthma in Africa: A systematic review and meta-analysis
Burden of fungal asthma in Africa: A systematic review and meta-analysis
Richard KwizeraID 0 1 4 5
Joseph Musaazi 0 4 5
David B. Meya 0 2 4 5
William Worodria 2 4 5
Freddie Bwanga 4 5
Henry Kajumbula 4 5
Stephen J. Fowler 3 4 5
Bruce J. Kirenga 1 2 4 5
Robin Gore 4 5
David W. Denning 4 5
Citation: Kwizera R, Musaazi J, Meya DB, Worodria
0 Infectious Diseases Institute, College of Health Sciences, Makerere University , Kampala , Uganda
1 Makerere University Lung Institute, College of Health Sciences, Makerere University , Kampala , Uganda
2 Department of Medicine, School of Medicine, College of Health Sciences, Makerere University , Kampala , Uganda , 4 Mulago National Referral Hospital , Kampala , Uganda , 5 Department of Medical Microbiology, School of Biomedical Sciences, College of Health Sciences, Makerere University , Kampala , Uganda
3 Division of Infection, Immunity and Respiratory Medicine, School of Biological Sciences, Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health, The University of Manchester; NIHR Biomedical Research Centre, Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Manchester, United Kingdom, 7 Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Cambridge, United Kingdom, 8 The National Aspergillosis Centre, Wythenshawe Hospital, The University of Manchester, Manchester Academic Health Science Centre , Manchester , United Kingdom
4 Editor: Aleksandra Barac, Clinic for Infectious
5 tropical diseases, Clinical centre of Serbia , SERBIA
Data Availability Statement: All relevant data are
within the manuscript and its Supporting
Funding: The authors received no specific funding
for this work.
Competing interests: RK, JM, FB, WW, DBM, SJF,
HK and BJK declare no conflict of interest. Dr Gore
has received financial support in the last 3 years for
career development seminars from Novartis UK. Dr
Denning and family hold Founder shares in F2G
Ltd, a University of Manchester spin-out antifungal
discovery company. He acts or has recently acted
using a systematic review.
Asthma is one of the neglected diseases in Africa with a high prevalence. Allergic fungal
diseases have been reported to complicate asthma progression and treatment outcomes.
However, data about fungal asthma and its associated complications are limited in Africa.
We aimed to estimate the burden of fungal asthma among adults and children in Africa
We first engaged the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) to highlight the
trend in morbidity and mortality attributed to asthma in Africa. We then searched PubMed,
HINARI and Google Scholar for all studies of any design focusing on fungal asthma in any
African country. Languages were restricted to English and French, but not year of
publication. We estimated the weighted prevalence of allergic fungal infections among asthmatics
with a 95% CI and pooled the results using a random effects model. This study is registered
with PROSPERO, number CRD42019117319.
The IHME data showed that there has been a gradual increase in morbidity and mortality
due to asthma in African adults with a prevalence of 4%. Our search retrieved 5233
citations. We retained 20 studies that met our selection criteria. These were from 13 African
countries published between 1967 and 2018. There were eight cross-sectional studies and
as a consultant to Scynexis, Cidara, Quintiles,
Pulmatrix, Pulmocide, Zambon, iCo Therapeutics,
Roivant and Fujifilm. In the last 3 years, he has
been paid for talks on behalf of Astellas,
Dynamiker, Gilead, Merck, Mylan and Pfizer. He is
a longstanding member of the Infectious Disease
Society of America Aspergillosis Guidelines group,
the European Society for Clinical Microbiology and
Infectious Diseases Aspergillosis Guidelines group
and the British Society for Medical Mycology
Standards of Care committee. This does not alter
our adherence to PLOS ONE policies on sharing
data and materials.
twelve review articles. The average asthma prevalence in Africa was 6% from these studies.
The prevalence of fungal sensitisation was relatively high (3?52%) in the asthmatic
population with an average of 28% and a pooled estimate of 23.3%, mostly due to Aspergillus
species. Prevalence of Allergic bronchopulmonary apsergillosis was estimated at 1.6?21.2%.
Diagnosis of fungal allergy was mostly made by skin prick tests. There was no data on the
use of medication to manage fungal asthma. None of the studies evaluated the association
between fungal allergy and asthma severity. Data were lacking in children.
There is a high prevalence of fungal sensitization among Africans with asthma. Fungal
asthma is a significant problem in Africa but there remains a paucity of data on the
epidemiology and associated complications. There is urgent need for national epidemiological
studies to estimate the actual burden of fungal asthma in Africa.
The global prevalence of asthma ranges from 1% to 18% in different studies [
national estimates ranging from 1.7% to 53% in different countries and at different ages [
In Africa, asthma is one of many neglected diseases and its prevalence is estimated with an
average of 12% [
] and national estimates ranging from 2% to 53% among individuals of age
ranging from <2 to 64 years [
]. Most surveys in Africa have been conducted among
children aged 5?14 years and few studies in adults [
]. Urban dwellers are more affected
with asthma than people living in rural areas . However, a systematic review by Anandan
et al [
] revealed that although asthma prevalence had been reported in some parts of Africa,
no serial data has been reported yet. It was also highlighted that there are limited data on
asthma trends in Africa and none using serial cohort designs [
]. Furthermore, it is estimated
that up to 10% of asthma patients globally have severe asthma [
], and various factors have
been proposed as underlying severe asthma among Africans [
Fungal exposure (related to dampness in housing) may precipitate the development of
]. Fungal sensitisation (or allergy) is known to worsen asthma control, leading
to asthma attacks [
], additional need for corticosteroids, hospitalisation [
] and, in the case
of Aspergillus fumigatus, increased rates of bronchiectasis [
]. Many airborne fungi are
linked to poor asthma control but Aspergillus species are the strongest candidates [
especially Aspergillus fumigatus [
]. Fungal sensitisation (or allergy) can be diagnosed by skin
prick test (SPT) or fungal specific IgE immunoassays [
The clinical phenotypes of asthma linked to Aspergillus sensitisation includes allergic
bronchopulmonary aspergillosis (ABPA) and/or severe asthma with fungal sensitisation
] since some ABPA patients will have severe asthma, with or without bronchiectasis.
These two pulmonary disorders worsen asthma status and are strongly associated with reduced
lung function and poor treatment outcomes despite apparently optimal care for asthma
]. Excess corticosteroids are a common consequence of poor control in these
patients, with their well known plethora of long term side effects. Aspergillus, continuously
present in the airway [
], in addition to sensitisation, probably drives the immunopathology
]. Similarly, in ABPA a predominant cellular T-helper cell (Th)-2 type response with high
IgE and eosinophil counts, occurs in response to Aspergillus persisting in the airways [
2 / 17
Both ABPA and SAFS respond to oral itraconazole and voriconazole therapy, both now
listed as Essential Medicines by the WHO [
]. Given that anti-IgE therapy with
omaluzimab is not approved for ABPA, and all monoclonal therapies for asthma are currently vastly
too expensive for the majority of patients in low and middle income countries, antifungal
therapy is an attractive option, if patients can be readily identified.
ABPA, SAFS and other allergic diseases associated with fungal sensitisation in asthma are
now simply referred to as ?fungal asthma?, partly for simplicity, and partly because of many
overlapping clinical features. However, despite published work about fungal asthma, data on
its burden and associated factors remains scanty in Africa. The aim of this study was to
systematically review literature on the burden of fungal asthma in Africa to highlight the gap in
published data; noting information such as prevalence, diagnosis, treatment and the effect of
fungal sensitisation on the severity of asthma. However, in order to understand the context of
the burden of fungal allergy in asthma, we first estimated trends in asthma morbidity and
mortality in Africa using data available from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation
Materials and methods
Morbidity and mortality due to asthma in Africa from IHME
We first searched the IHME to review the trend in the morbidity and mortality attributed to
asthma in Africa. For this query, we considered all ages (adults and children) and both sexes
(female and male). We engaged the Global Health Data Exchange tool in the same database
(http://ghdx.healthdata.org/gbd-results-tool) using ?asthma? as the cause. We searched results
ranging from 1990 to 2017 to observe any trends.
Study designs, inclusion and exclusion criteria for the systematic review
This was a systematic review and meta-analysis performed according to PRISMA checklist (S1
Checklist). The systematic review protocol (S1 Protocol) was registered in the PROSPERO
international prospective register of systematic reviews (No: CRD42019117319) (https://www.
crd.york.ac.uk/PROSPEROFILES/117319_PROTOCOL_20181120.pdf). In the systematic
review, we aimed to include all studies of any design focusing on fungal asthma in any African
country, highlighting prevalence, diagnosis, treatment and the effect of fungal sensitisation on
the severity of asthma. We restricted the languages to English and French since they are the
main national languages in Africa. There was no restriction on year of publication. We
planned to exclude all case reports/ series, studies about fungal sensitisation in populations
other than asthma, studies done outside Africa and studies done in animal models. For this
review, we defined fungal sensitisation as a positive fungal specific SPT or an elevated fungal
specific IgE antibody titre.
Search strategy for the systematic review
To capture as many relevant citations as possible, a PubMed electronic search was executed to
identify primary studies addressing fungal asthma in Africa. In the first search, we used the
term ?Africa? AND other individual key words, such as, fungal sensitisation; Aspergillus
sensitisation; fungal allergy; fungal infections; fungal asthma; severe asthma with fungal
sensitisation; allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis; severe asthma and burden of fungal infections.
In the second search, we replaced the word ?Africa? with specific names for each of the
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individual 54 African nations but kept all the other key words. Furthermore, we repeated these
two searches in HINARI and Google scholar to provide more references.
Review of studies for the systematic review
A database was created from the electronic searches and kept in EndNote X7 programme
while restricting entry of duplicate citations. Two reviewers (RK and JM) screened the
citations using title and abstract without blinding to capture relevant studies. The two review
authors independently assessed the risk of bias in included studies by examining the raw data
(if available), completeness of outcome data and any other problems that could produce a high
risk of bias, such as selective outcome reporting and insufficient blinding. Disagreements
between the two review authors over the risk of bias in particular studies was resolved by
discussion, with involvement of a third review author where necessary. The database was then
screened again using full text for each study to include only relevant articles. We only included
studies addressing the burden of fungal sensitisation, SAFS or ABPA in patients with asthma
in any African country.
Data summary for the systematic review
Data from the final studies were summarised in an excel spreadsheet, recording information
such as; title, first author, year of publication, country, study type, sample size, population,
prevalence of fungal sensitisation, prevalence of ABPA, prevalence of SAFS, diagnosis of fungal
allergy, factors associated with fungal allergy, fungal allergy vs severity of asthma and treatment
of fungal allergy. This was later transferred to STATA version 14 (STATA, College Station,
Texas) for meta-analysis.
Data were analysed using STATA version 14 (STATA, College Station, Texas). Statistical/
meta-analysis aimed to determine pooled prevalence of fungal sensitisation, ABPA and SAFS
in asthma among Africans. For studies which had prevalence for more than one fungus, an
average was considered. Meta-analysis was performed using metaprop function that pools
prevalence estimates and computes exact binomial and score test-based confidence intervals
]. The pooled prevalence and confidence intervals of fungal sensitisation, ABPA and SAFS
in the individual studies were calculated using a random effects model. Heterogeneity
chisquare test was used to assess the level of variation of prevalence across studies. Results were
presented on forest plots.
Estimates from the IHME
Burden of asthma in Africa from the IHME. In 2017, the population of Africa was
estimated at 1.2 billion people (https://www.populationpyramid.net/africa/2017/). Considering
both adults and children of both sexes, our query in the IHME database showed that in the
year 2017, the overall prevalence of asthma in Africa was estimated at 4.2% (range: 3.5?4.8)
translating into 50,668,000 cases (range: 42,981,000?58,739,000). This was similar to the
average prevalence (6%, n = 13) obtained from the studies included in our review.
However, according to the IHME, there was variation in the prevalence of asthma in Africa
by age, i.e. 5.0% (8,770,000 cases) for children under 5 years, 5.7% (17,632,000 cases) for 5?14
years, 2.9% (17,484,000 cases) for 15?49 years, 4.7% (5,047,000 cases) for 50?69 years and 7.0%
(1,735,000 cases) for 70+ years [
]. Considering sub-Saharan Africa alone, the prevalence of
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asthma was 4.6% (7,270,000 cases) for children under 5 years, 5.5% (15,167,000 cases) for 5?14
years, 2.7% (13,388,000 cases) for 15?49 years, 3.9% (3,232,000 cases) for 50?69 years and 5.8%
(1,097,000 cases) for 70+ years.
In addition, without using the IHME, and considering that 10% of asthmatics globally have
severe asthma based on a previously described model [
], we estimated the prevalence of
severe asthma among the included studies to range from 0.2% to 1.5% with an average of 0.6%
based on this model (Table 1).
Morbidity and mortality attributed to asthma in Africa from the IHME. Our query in
the IHME database for adults and children showed that in the year 2017 the overall observed
mortality due to asthma in Africa was 0.7% (0.6?0.9) translating into 62,544 deaths (range:
50,665?74,430). However, mortality varied by age, i.e. 0.1% (3,617 deaths) among children
under 5 years, 0.5% (1,437 deaths) for 5?14 years, 0.7% (13,546 deaths) for 15?49 years, 1.2%
(21,876 deaths) for 50?69 years and 1.2% (22,066 deaths) for 70+ years. Similarly, the overall
number of DALY?s were 4,020,082 years (range: 3,238,784?4,972,721) in the same year [
We then plotted these parameters from the year 1990 to 2017 to observe the trend (Fig 1). The
IHME data indicate that the prevalence and DALY?s attributed to asthma in Africa have
gradually increased among adults from 1990 to 2017. However, these results showed a gradual
decrease in mortality among children less than fifteen years.
Estimates from the systematic review
Search results. Our initial electronic database search for the systematic review in
PubMed, HINARI and Google Scholar (hereafter referred to as electronic search) retrieved
5819 citations. We then removed duplicates and remained with 5233 citations from which
relevant studies were selected for the review. Their potential relevance was examined using a title
and abstract screening to remove studies that were clearly not related to the topic. 5022
citations were excluded as irrelevant to the subject. The full papers of the remaining 211 citations
were assessed to select those that included data about fungal sensitisation, ABPA or SAFS in
asthmatic Africans; highlighting any information on prevalence, diagnosis, treatment and the
effect of fungal sensitisation on the severity of asthma. These criteria excluded 191 studies and
left 20 studies [
] that were included in the final analysis. Of these 20 studies, only
eight had enough data for a meta-analysis (Fig 2).
Summary of studies. The 20 studies came from thirteen (13/54) African countries (Fig 3)
including Egypt [
], South Africa [
], Senegal , Uganda [
], Algeria [
], Kenya [
], Sudan [
], Nigeria [
], Burkina Faso , Malawi [
] and Mozambique [
]. One study was a review modelling the global burden of
ABPA with asthma, estimating its burden in Africa as well [
]. These were published between
1967 and 2018; with 16/20 (80%) of the studies published recently between 2009 and 2018,
while the rest (4/20) were published between 1967 and 1991 (Table 1). No studies were found
between 1992 and 2008. Eight of the studies were cross-sectional while twelve were review
articles that used modelling to estimate the burden of fungal asthma.
Burden of fungal sensitisation in asthma. From the electronic search, only eleven studies
described the prevalence of fungal sensitisation in adult asthmatics and none among children
on the African continent. The prevalence of fungal sensitisation among asthmatics varied
widely ranging from 3% to 52% [
] with an average of 28%. Aspergillus species
were the most prevalent cause (3?52%) [
]. This was followed by Alternaria species
(5.6?40.3%), Cladosporium species (4.2?42%) and the mould mix (7?11%).
Only the 8/20 cross-sectional studies had enough data to perform a meta-analysis for fungal
sensitisation. Using a random effects model, the weighted estimates for fungal sensitisation
5 / 17
High school 8.0%
6 / 17
aspergillosis, SAFS = severe asthma with fungal sensitisation, Asp = Aspergillus species, AF = Aspergillus fumigatus, Alter = Alternaria species, Penic = Penicillium
species, Clad = Cladosporium species, Fusa = Fusarium, MM = mould mix, SPT = skin prick test, TIgE = total Immunoglobulin E, ELISA = enzyme-linked
immunosorbent assay, RAST = radioallergosorbent test. NA = not applicable, - = missing data,
One study was a review modelling the global burden of ABPA with asthma, estimating its burden in Africa.
# Estimated that 10% of asthma patients have severe asthma.
? Weighted estimates are from a random effects model based on the variance in each individual study.
ranged from 2.9 to 51.9% with a pooled prevalence estimate of 23.3% (CI: 14.8 to 31.8, n = 8
studies). There was a lot of variation in the prevalence of fungal sensitisation across the eight
cross-sectional studies included in the meta-analysis (heterogeneity test; p-value <0.01) (Fig
4). The variation in the prevalence estimates attributable to heterogeneity was 98.1%. Only two
] had very high variability in estimates; probably attributed to small sample sizes.
Fig 1. Trends in morbidity and mortality due to asthma in Africa. There has been a gradual increase in the
prevalence, deaths and disability-adjusted life years attributed to asthma among adults in Africa over the years (source:
IHME; Seattle, WA) [
]. Each line is a separate age category (years).
7 / 17
Fig 2. Citation selection process for the systematic review. Twenty studies were found describing the burden of
fungal asthma in Africa. Eight were epidemiological studies and the twelve were review articles.
Four of the studies had low prevalence estimates (<25%) while the remaining four studies had
high prevalence estimates (>25%).
Diagnosis of fungal allergy was made using skin prick test in 7/8 cross-sectional studies. Of
these, one study added fungal specific IgE (fungal ?-amylase IgE) [
] while two studies added
fungal precipitins test [
]. One study from Egypt used total serum IgE together with fungal
specific IgE using the radioallergosorbent test (RAST) . The rest of the studies were reviews
Only two studies [
] reported factors associated with fungal allergy. These pointed out
associations with onset of asthma under age of 10 years, positive family history of atopy and
proximity of garbage dumping sites. None of the studies evaluated the association between
fungal allergy and asthma severity. None of the studies described fungal asthma in children.
Burden of ABPA in asthma. From the electronic search, only fifteen studies reported the
prevalence of ABPA in asthma, in Africa. However, 12/15 studies reporting the estimates for
ABPA were review articles without original data. All these reviews recommended an urgent
8 / 17
Fig 3. Distribution of studies describing burden of fungal asthma in Africa. Twenty studies were found from
thirteen (out of 54) African countries. The shaded areas represent countries with data from epidemiological study and/
or review article. Map was created and reprinted from [https://mapchart.net/africa.html#] under a CC BY license.
need for national epidemiological studies to validate these estimates, since there are no reliable
data on ABPA in Africa.
The prevalence of ABPA ranged from 1.6% to 21.2% among the studies included [
], most of which were reviews using modelling and published between 2013 and 2018. Due
to limited published data on fungal disease epidemiology in Africa, the prevalence of ABPA
was mostly estimated at 2.5% in all these reviews [
] based on a previously described
model by Denning et al.  on the burden of ABPA among adults with asthma, including one
study from South Africa. This model also estimated that there were 419,000 adult cases (range:
117,000 to 587,000) of ABPA in Africa. In 1977, Benatar et al estimated the prevalence of
ABPA among adult asthmatics in South Africa at 1.9% (5/258) [
]. Similarly, in 1980 this
group estimated the prevalence of ABPA in the same population to be 2.6% [
]. In 2016,
Sabry et al studied adult patients with moderate and severe asthma in Egypt cross-sectionally
and estimated the prevalence of ABPA at 21.2% in this selected cohort [
There were insufficient data to perform a meta-analysis for estimates of ABPA in Africa.
For the three cross-sectional studies that described patients with ABPA [
diagnostic criteria was based on history of asthma symptoms, positive Aspergillus SPT, elevated
9 / 17
Fig 4. Forest plot showing meta-analysis on prevalence of fungal sensitisation. There was a lot of variation in the
prevalence of fungal sensitisation across the eight studies included in the meta-analysis (p-value <0.01). Broken
vertical line indicates the combined (overall) estimates. ES (95% CI) denotes weighted estimates of prevalence and
their 95% confidence intervals based on the variance in each individual study.
eosinophil count, shadow of chest x-ray and positive precipitins test. Only one recent study
included total IgE and chest CT scan [
]. Data were lacking on management for ABPA in
Africa. Similarly, none of the studies evaluated the association between ABPA and asthma
severity. The factors associated with ABPA remain unknown in the African context, including
lack of any genetic or exposure studies, for example. There were no data about mortality
related to ABPA in Africa. Data about the burden of ABPA in children was lacking in Africa.
Burden of SAFS in asthma. Eleven studies estimated the prevalence of SAFS from the
electronic search. However, similar to ABPA, all estimates for SAFS in Africa were from
country estimates of the burden of fungal disease [
] based on the model proposed by Denning
et al. [
]. SAFS was estimated at 3.3% in all reviews. This model suggests that, ?10% of asthma
patients globally have severe asthma, and of these, 33% have been shown to be sensitised to
one or more fungi?.
Just as for ABPA, there were insufficient data to perform a meta-analysis for estimates of
SAFS in Africa, and whether asthma-related mortality is related to SAFS remains unknown in
Africa. There are no published data regarding SAFS in children in Africa.
Combined estimate for the burden of fungal asthma in Africa
In this section, we tried to estimate the burden of fungal asthma by combining results from
both IHME and systematic review. From the IHME data, we used the ?15?49 years? group to
represent the population of adult asthmatics in Africa. If there were 17,484,000 cases of adult
asthma with an estimated prevalence of ABPA of 2.5% and SAFS of 3.3% among adult
asthmatics, we estimated that approximately 437,000 adult asthmatics had ABPA and 577,000 with
SAFS on the African continent in the same year. Similarly, using the pooled estimate for fungal
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sensitisation (23.3%), we estimate that approximately 4,074,000 adult asthmatics have fungal
sensitisation in Africa.
The results of this systematic review indicate that data are scanty about fungal asthma and its
associated complications from the African continent. Asthma is one of many neglected
diseases in Africa. If antifungal therapy with oral azoles were routinely given to adults with
problematic fungal asthma in Africa, about 437,000?577,000 (ABPA/SAFS) asthmatics would
receive therapy and at least 60% of these would benefit [
]. Given the rising mortality from
asthma in the continent, this seems the most expedient path of adding to physicians? tools to
control uncontrolled asthma. Currently this is not a treatment option for fungal asthma in
Africa, and requires study before being rolled out generally. Oral itraconazole, the preferred
antifungal for fungal asthma, was available in at least 43% of African nations, but costly [
The cost varied widely from less than $1 in Uganda to $19.4 in Nigeria for a 400mg/day dose.
However, the WHO recently added itraconazole on the ?2017 Model List of Essential
Medicines? for adults (EML) for management of selected fungal infections [
]. This gives hope
that resource-constrained African nations can access itraconazole for the management of
fungal asthma, as it is off patent and there are many generic suppliers.
We found only eight epidemiological studies. The remaining majority (twelve papers) were
review articles that used modelling to estimate the burden of serious fungal infections in
different African countries. Whether fungal sensitisation is associated with severe asthma and which
factors are associated with fungal asthma are not documented in any African country. Only
24% of the countries in Africa had any estimate for fungal asthma. There was relatively even
regional distribution over the continent; three countries were from North Africa, four from
West Africa, three from East Africa and three from South Africa. However, there were no
estimates from central Africa.
The clinical perceptions about asthma vary in different African countries. Asthma is
confused with other chronic lung diseases and symptoms such as tuberculosis, smoker?s cough,
smoke exposure related to wood burning stoves inside, pollution and cold weather [
Education and diagnostic tools for asthma are required, to prevent inappropriate therapy,
including antibiotics and anti-tuberculous agents.
The prevalence of asthma is high and increasing in Africa, possibly partly attributable to
urbanisation and air pollution [
]. A cross-sectional world health survey estimated the
prevalence of asthma in Africa at 3.9% for doctor diagnosed asthma, 4.2% for clinical asthma and
7.8% for wheezing symptoms . A systematic review estimating the prevalence of asthma in
Africa revealed a cumulative prevalence of ?asthma ever? in South Africa (53%), Egypt
(26.5%), Nigeria (18.4%), Ethiopia (16.3%) and Gambia (1.9%) [
]. However, in our review,
the prevalence of asthma ranged from 3.1% to 15.2% (n = 13 studies) with an average of 6%.
Similarly, the prevalence of severe asthma was estimated to range from 0.2% to 1.5% with an
average of 0.6%. However, there is currently lack of a standardized case definition for severe
asthma in Africa. In most African settings, severe asthma is defined based on symptoms [
In addition, only Kenya  and South Africa [
] seem to have published guidelines on
the management of asthma among adults and/or children. Surprisingly, we observed a gradual
steady increase in the morbidity and mortality attributed to asthma in Africa among adults.
All this information emphasises the point that asthma is neglected in Africa. More advocacy is
needed to increase awareness about asthma and its associated complications in Africa. This
may encourage screening programmes for both asthma and allergic fungal infections in this
11 / 17
Aspergillus species were the most prevalent association with fungal asthma in Africa. Other
fungi may be important, including Alternaria and Cladosporium spp., and these fungi also
need study in Africa. Despite limited published data, the prevalence of fungal sensitisation was
relatively high from the cross-sectional studies identified (range: 3?52%) with an average of
28% and a pooled estimate of 23.3%. This average and pooled estimate are similar to that of
Agarwal et al [
] who found a pooled prevalence of Aspergillus sensitisation of 28%. In this
review, 21 studies were included between 1964 and 2008, but only one from Africa [
ABPA prevalence was estimated at 2.5% of adult asthmatics in the country burden articles.
However, three cross-sectional studies gave estimates of 2.6%, 21.2% and 1.9% respectively
] for ABPA. The prevalence of SAFS in adult asthmatics was only estimated in
country burden papers at 3.3%. We were unable to perform a meta-analysis on the estimates of
ABPA and SAFS to get pooled figures since the confidence intervals and sample sizes could
not be got from the papers. The accuracy of these estimates on prevalence of ABPA and SAFS
in Africa remains unclear. In a recent review article published in 2017 which discussed the
accuracy of estimates of the burden of fungal infections in 43 countries, the global prevalence
of fungal asthma was estimated at over ten million cases annually [
]. The review noted that
?the estimates were not intended as a substitute for high quality epidemiological study or
comprehensive surveillance, but do provide a rough approximation of the size of each fungal
disease by country and therefore a means of comparing countries?.
In addition to the above, the lack of data on fungal asthma in Africa mighty also be largely
attributed to limited availability of diagnostic tests particularly in resource-limited settings.
Apart from the review articles, majority of the epidemiological studies included in the review
used skin prick tests to diagnose fungal allergy. At present, diagnosis of fungal sensitisation
among patients with asthma can be made either by skin prick test or fungal specific IgE
], with a 77% concordance between the two tests [
]. However, most of
these approaches are rarely performed in resource-constrained settings. Skin prick testing is
inexpensive, but serum fungal specific IgE is currently costly and needs referral to
wellequipped laboratory facilities.
Only two studies used fungal specific IgE immunoassays [
]. Two of the studies used
Aspergillus precipitins test [
]. Precipitins detection of Aspergillus IgG and IgM antibody is
insensitive and is most useful for chronic pulmonary aspergillosis rather than ABPA, although
often positive [
]. Other tests such as fungal specific IgG/ total serum IgE immunoassays and
eosinophil count can contribute to diagnosis of ABPA and SAFS as proposed by Agarwal et al
]. High resolution chest CT scan may be added to distinguish between ?serological ABPA?
and ?ABPA with bronchiectasis?. However, most of these tests are costly and not available in
Africa. Introducing and advocating for point-of-care tests for fungal allergy would help to
solve this problem.
Sixty percent (12/20) of the studies included were review articles that used modelling to
estimate the national burden of fungal infections in individual countries. Meta-analysis was not
performed for ABPA and SAFS due to limited data. The estimates for ABPA had a very wide
We systematically estimated the burden of fungal asthma in Africa, highlighting the gap in
data and epidemiological studies. Despite limited published data on the subject, we identified a
high prevalence of fungal sensitisation in this population and a lack of modern diagnostics
12 / 17
technologies. The accuracy of the estimates on prevalence of ABPA and SAFS from reviews
remains unclear. Fungal allergy is in fact a significant but possibly underestimated problem in
asthma on the African continent. There is urgent need for national epidemiological studies to
estimate the actual burden of fungal asthma in Africa. In addition, there is need to develop
affordable and more sensitive point-of-care diagnostic tests to improve early diagnosis and
encourage screening programmes for fungal asthma in Africa. More studies are also needed to
explore fungal asthma among children in Africa.
S1 Protocol. Protocol for systematic review.
S1 Checklist. PRISMA checklist used during the systematic review and meta-analysis.
The authors received no specific funding for this work. However, we thank institutional
support from the IDI research office and Makerere University Lung Institute. Dr David Meya and
Richard Kwizera are currently supported through the DELTAS Africa Initiative grant #
DEL15-011 to THRiVE-2, from Wellcome Trust grant # 107742/Z/15/Z and the UK government.
Conceptualization: Richard Kwizera.
Data curation: Richard Kwizera.
Formal analysis: Richard Kwizera, Joseph Musaazi.
Methodology: Richard Kwizera.
Project administration: Stephen J. Fowler, Bruce J. Kirenga, Robin Gore.
Resources: David W. Denning.
Software: Joseph Musaazi.
Supervision: David B. Meya, William Worodria, Freddie Bwanga, Henry Kajumbula, Stephen
J. Fowler, Bruce J. Kirenga, Robin Gore, David W. Denning.
Writing ? original draft: Richard Kwizera.
Writing ? review & editing: Richard Kwizera, Joseph Musaazi, David B. Meya, William
Worodria, Stephen J. Fowler, Bruce J. Kirenga, Robin Gore, David W. Denning.
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