Mucormycosis

Overview & Causes

Mucormycosis is a fungal infection caused by the fungi genus Mucor. This fungus is present in decaying organic matter (e.g. compost, spoiled fruit, vegetables or bread), and is a conditional pathogen; humans often come into contact with the fungus, without developing problems. The fungus typically only causes infection and complications in immunocompromised individuals (e.g., individuals with AIDS, diabetes, malnutrition, leukemia, etc.).

Infections occur via the inhalation of the fungal spores, with the subsequent dissemination of the spores via the blood or lymphatic system. Inhalation is the most common form of infection, however, ingestion of contaminated food can also be a cause of infection. Infected areas are typically the oronasal sinus area, the lungs (pulmonary mucormycosis), or the brain, but they can occur in other regions as well.

Mucormycosis can cause angiemphraxis and tissue necrosis.

Symptoms

Symptoms can vary by the form of the infection (e.g. brain or pulmonary), but all forms typically include high fever. Symptoms by form are as follows (referenced from MedlinePlus):

Symptoms of brain or sinus mucormycosis:

  • Eye swelling
  • Dark scabbing in nasal cavities
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Mental status changes
  • Sinus pain or congestion

Symptoms of pulmonary (lung) mucormycosis:

  • Yellow sputum
  • Cough
  • Coughing blood
  • Fever
  • Shortness of breath

Symptoms of gastrointestinal mucormycosis:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Blood in the stools
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting blood

Symptoms of kidney (renal) mucormycosis:

  • Fever
  • Pain in the upper abdomen or back

Symptoms of skin (cutaneous) mucormycosis:

  • A single, painful, hardened area of skin that may have a blackened center.

Diagnosis

CT and MRI are common tests that your doctor or health care provider will perform to help pinpoint the issue and eliminate other conditions. However, the official diagnosis is performed by a mucus culture or biopsy in order to identify the fungus.

Treatment

Treatment for mucormycosis involves surgery (to remove the infected area/tissue) and/or treatment with an antifungal medication, typically Amphotericin B.

Outlook | Prognosis

Mucormycosis can be severe with a high fatality rate. The prognosis typically depends on the stage of infection and when it is detected and diagnosed. Infections usually result in death. However, if caught early enough, treatment results in complete resolution of the condition (some reports indicate the complete resolution of mucormycosis with treatment by antifungal medication).

When To Contact A Medical Professional

Individuals who are immunocompromised and begin to exhibit any of the following symptoms should seek medical attention:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Sinus pain
  • Eye swelling

References