Mucormycosis (zygomycosis) is infection caused by Mucorales molds.
Mucormycosis is caused by inhaling spores produced by Mucorales molds. These molds are common in the environment and include many common bread molds. People probably breathe in the spores of these molds all the time. However, most of these molds do not cause infection.
This infection most commonly affects the nose, sinuses, eyes, and brain—a form called rhinocerebral mucormycosis. This severe and potentially fatal infection typically affects people whose immune system is weakened by a disorder, such as undernutrition or uncontrolled diabetes. The other common site of infection is the lungs. Rarely, the skin and digestive system are infected.
Symptoms of rhinocerebral mucormycosis include pain, fever, and infection of the eye socket (orbital cellulitis) with bulging of the affected eye (proptosis). Pus is discharged from the nose. The roof of the mouth (palate), the facial bones surrounding the eye socket or sinuses, or the divider between the nostrils (septum) may be destroyed by the infection. Infection in the brain may cause seizures, partial paralysis, and coma.
Mucormycosis in the lungs causes fever, cough, and sometimes difficulty breathing.
The fungus tends to invade arteries. As a result, blood clots form and tissue dies. The fungus grows uncontrolled in the dead tissue, which becomes black. The surrounding area may bleed.
Because symptoms of mucormycosis can resemble those of other infections, a doctor may not be able to diagnose it immediately. Usually, the diagnosis is made when a doctor identifies the fungus in cultures of samples of infected tissue samples.
Most people with mucormycosis are treated with high doses of amphotericin B given intravenously. People with uncontrolled diabetes are given insulin to lower blood sugar levels.
Infected tissue and especially dead tissue must be removed by surgery. Early diagnosis and treatment of this infection are important to avoid death or extensive surgery, which often causes disfigurement.
Mucormycosis is very serious. Even when as much infected and dead tissue as possible is removed and antifungal drugs are used appropriately, many people with this infection die.
Last full review/revision October 2008 by Alan M. Sugar, MD