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Definition of Mucormycosis

What is mucormycosis?

Mucormycosis (sometimes called zygomycosis) is a serious but rare fungal infection caused by a group of molds called mucormycetes. These fungi live throughout the environment, particularly in soil and in association with decaying organic matter, such as leaves, compost piles, or rotten wood.1 Examples of the types of fungi that most commonly cause mucormycosis are: Rhizopus species, Mucor species, Cunninghamella bertholletiae, Apophysomyces species, and Lichtheimia (formerly Absidia) species.2

People get mucormycosis by coming in contact with the fungal spores in the environment. For example, the lung or sinus forms of the infection can occur after someone inhales the spores from the air. These forms of mucormycosis usually occur in people who have weakened immune systems. Mucormycosis can also develop on the skin after the fungus enters the skin through a cut, scrape, burn, or other type of skin trauma.

Types of mucormycosis

Mucormycosis can affect nearly any part of the body, but it most commonly affects the sinuses or the lungs in people who have weakened immune systems.3-6

  • Rhinocerebral (sinus and brain) mucormycosis is an infection in the sinuses that can spread to the brain. This form of mucormycosis is most common in people with uncontrolled diabetes.
  • Pulmonary (lung) mucormycosis is the most common type of mucormycosis in people with cancer and in people who have had an organ transplant or a stem cell transplant.
  • Gastrointestinal mucormycosis can result from ingestion of the fungal spores. This type of mucormycosis is less common among adults and is more common among young children, especially infants <1 month of age.7
  • Cutaneous (skin) mucormycosis: occurs after the fungi enter the body through a break in the skin (for example, after surgery, a burn, or other type of skin trauma). This is the most common form of mucormycosis among people who do not have weakened immune systems.
  • Disseminated mucormycosis occurs when the infection spreads through the bloodstream to affect another part of the body. The brain is the most commonly affected part of the body, but other organs such as the spleen, heart, and skin can also be affected.

References

  1. Richardson M. The ecology of the Zygomycetes and its impact on environmental exposure. Clin Microbiol Infect. 2009 Oct;15 Suppl 5:2-9.
  2. Roden MM, Zaoutis TE, Buchanan WL, Knudsen TA, Sarkisova TA, Schaufele RL, et al. Epidemiology and outcome of zygomycosis: a review of 929 reported cases. Clin Infect Dis. 2005 Sep 1;41(5):634-53.
  3. Petrikkos G, Skiada A, Lortholary O, Roilides E, Walsh TJ, Kontoyiannis DP. Epidemiology and clinical manifestations of mucormycosis. Clin Infect Dis. 2012 Feb;54 Suppl 1:S23-34.
  4. Lewis RE, Kontoyiannis DP. Epidemiology and treatment of mucormycosis. Future microbiology. 2013 Sep;8(9):1163-75.
  5. Spellberg B, Edwards J, Jr., Ibrahim A. Novel perspectives on mucormycosis: pathophysiology, presentation, and management. Clin Microbiol Rev. 2005 Jul;18(3):556-69.
  6. Ribes et al. Zygomycetes in human disease. Clin Microbiol Rev 2000; 13:236-301.
  7. Vallabhaneni S, Mody RK. Gastrointestinal Mucormycosis in Neonates: a Review. Current Fungal Infection Reports. 2015.
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