Mucormycosis: Causes, Diagnosis, Symptoms and more

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What is mucormycosis?

Mucormycosis is a type of fungal infection. It’s relatively rare, but also very serious.

Formally known as zygomycosis, this infection tends to occur most often if you have weakened immunity from an illness or health condition.

It’s important to get treatment. If left untreated, mucormycosis can be fatal.

What are the symptoms of mucormycosis?

Mucormycosis presents itself as either a respiratory or a skin infection. Signs of a related sinus or respiratory infection may include:

With a skin infection, mucormycosis can develop within any part of your body. It may initially occur at the site of skin trauma, but it can quickly spread to another area. Be on the lookout for symptoms such as:

  • blackened skin tissue
  • blisters
  • fever
  • redness
  • swelling
  • tenderness
  • ulcers

causes

Mucormycosis is caused by exposure to mucormyete molds. These organisms occur in:

  • leaves
  • piles of compost
  • soil
  • rotting wood

You can contract mucormycosis by breathing in affected mold spores in the air. This is referred to as a sinus (pulmonary) exposure. In turn, you may develop the infection in your:

  • central nervous system (rarer)
  • eyes
  • face
  • lungs
  • sinuses

The fungus can also infect your skin via a cut or burn (cutaneous exposure). In such cases, the wound or burn ends up becoming the area of infection.

While these types of molds can naturally occur in the environment, not everyone exposed will get the fungal infection. You may be at an increased risk of contracting this type of infection if you have a weakened immune system. Conditions that may increase your risk include:

  • burns
  • cuts and scrapes
  • cancer
  • recent organ transplant
  • HIV or AIDS
  • diabetes (especially if it’s not being treated properly)
  • surgery

How is mucormycosis diagnosed?

People who have mucormycosis often don’t know they have it. You may get diagnosed with the condition upon going to the doctor for a lung, sinus, or skin infection. You should see your doctor for any type of suspected infection.

Mucormycosis is diagnosed by looking at a tissue sample in the lab. Your doctor may collect a sample of phlegm or nasal discharge if you have a suspected sinus infection. In the case of a skin infection, your doctor may also clean the wounded area in question.

Can mucormycosis cause other conditions to develop?

Mucormycosis is particularly dangerous because it spreads quickly throughout the body. Left untreated, the infection can spread to the lungs or the brain. This can cause:

How is It treated?

The first steps in treating mucormycosis are receiving intravenous (IV) antifungal medications and having surgical debridement. Surgical debridement involves cutting away all infected tissue. Removing infected tissue has been shown to prevent the infection from spreading further.

If you respond well to IV therapy and tissue removal, your doctor will likely remove your IV and give you oral medications to take.

Common antifungal medications that your doctor may prescribe for mucormycosis include:

  • amphotericin B (given through an IV)
  • posaconazole (given through an IV or orally)
  • isavuconazole (given through an IV or orally)

What is the outlook for mucormycosis?

Chances for mucormycosis recovery depend greatly on early diagnosis and treatment. The infection has the potential to spread throughout the body. Death is a possibility with this type of severe infection.

However, mucormycosis is relatively rare. To be on the safe side, you should always have your doctor evaluate any suspected form of infection to rule out such serious underlying causes.

Is it possible to prevent a mucormycosis infection?

Mucormycosis isn’t contagious, so you can’t get it from an infected person. Self-care measures are the best way to prevent this type of infection. If you have a weakened immune system, it’s important to keep yourself safe outdoors. Wearing a mask while doing yardwork and bandaging all wounds until they heal will help prevent fungal infections.

>>READ THE QUESTION CAREFULLY.

A 44-year-old woman with a 20-year history of poorly controlled diabetes mellitus presents with headache and unilateral proptosis. The patient is febrile and appears toxic. Her serum glucose level is 640 mg/dL. An urgent CT scan of the head reveals a retroorbital abscess and severe opacification of the frontal and ethmoid sinuses.
Which of the following organisms is most likely responsible for this infection?

  • a. Cryptococcus neoformans
  • b. Mucormycosis
  • c. Mycobacterium tuberculosis
  • d. Toxoplasma gondii
  • e. Listeria monocytogenes
  • f. Staphylococcus epidermis

The answer is (b).
Mucormycosis is a rare fungal disease (Rhizopus species are the most common causative organisms ) limited to persons with preexisting illness and may be seen in poorly controlled diabetic patients. Severe infection of the facial sinuses, which may extend into the brain, is the most common presentation. Patients present with fever, nasalcongestion, sinus pain, diplopia, and coma.
Physical examination may reveal a necrotic nasal turbinate, reduced ocular motion, proptosis, and blindness. CT scan or MRI will reveal the extent of sinus involvement prior to surgery.

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