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Mucormycosis

(Zygomycosis)

How to Say It: MU-kor-mi-ko-sis

Definition

Mucormycosis is a rare fungal infection. It most commonly affects the sinuses, lungs, and skin. However, it can affect any part of the body. If not treated right away, it can be fatal.

Causes

The infection is caused by a group of fungi. They are found in soil, rotting plants or wood, and compost. The fungi enter the body through cuts in the skin or by inhaling them. They may also be on food that is eaten. Once in the body, the fungi can spread fast.

In healthy people, the body removes the fungi.

Risk Factors

The risk of mucormycosis is highest in those with a weak immune system. This can happen with:

  • Blood cancers such as leukemia or lymphoma
  • Poorly controlled diabetes
  • Prior organ transplant
  • Long-term steroid use
  • Injuries or burns
  • Autoimmune disease
  • Iron poisoning with deferoxamine
  • HIV infection
  • IV drug use

Sinus Cavity
Sinus Infection

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Symptoms

Symptoms depend on where the infection starts. They may be:

  • Fever
  • Pain or numbness in the face
  • Swollen or bulging eyes
  • Redness near the sinuses
  • Cough
  • Breathing problems
  • Belly pain
  • Vomiting blood

A skin infection may start with blisters or sores. The skin may later be tender, red, swollen, and turn black.

Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam may be done. Tests may be:

  • Samples taken from tissue—to check for infection
  • Scans such as CT scan and MRI to look at affected areas

Treatment

The goal is to treat the infection right away. Medicines will be given to fight the fungi. Surgery may be done to remove dead tissue, if needed. The doctor may also need to treat underlying illnesses or change other medicines.

Prevention

In those with a weak immune system, the risk of mucormycosis may be lowered with medicines.

RESOURCES:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
https://www.cdc.gov

National Foundation for Infectious Diseases
http://www.nfid.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Public Health Agency of Canada
https://www.canada.ca

The Lung Association
https://www.lung.ca

REFERENCES:

Cornely OA, Alastruey-Izquierdo A, et al. Global guideline for the diagnosis and management of mucormycosis: an initiative of the European Confederation of Medical Mycology in cooperation with the Mycoses Study Group Education and Research Consortium. Lancet Infect Dis. 2019;19(12):e405-e421.

Mucormycosis. Center for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/fungal/diseases/mucormycosis/index.html. Accessed February 5, 2021.

Mucormycosis. EBSCO DynaMed Plus. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/mucormycosis. Accessed February 5, 2021.

Mucormycosis. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/infectious-diseases/fungi/mucormycosis. Accessed February 5, 2021.

Last reviewed September 2020 by David L. Horn, MD, FACP  Last Updated: 2/5/2021