About 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. They live in soil and in decaying organic matter, such as leaves, compost piles, or rotten wood.1

People get mucormycosis by coming in contact with the fungal spores in the environment. For example, infections involving the lung or sinus can occur after someone breathes in spores. These forms of mucormycosis usually occur in people who have health problems or take medicines that lower the body’s ability to fight germs and sickness.2,3

Types of mucormycosis

  • Rhinocerebral (sinus and brain) mucormycosis is an infection in the sinuses that can spread to the brain. This is most common in people with uncontrolled diabetes and in people who have had a kidney transplant.4–5
  • 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 is more common among young children than adults. Premature and low-birth-weight infants less than 1 month of age are at risk if they have had antibiotics, surgery, or medications that lower the body’s ability to fight germs and sickness.6-7
  • Cutaneous (skin) mucormycosis occurs after the fungi enter the body through a break in the skin. This type of infection might occur after a burn, scrape, cut, surgery, or other types 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 infection most commonly affects the brain, but also can affect other organs such as the spleen, heart, and skin.

Types of fungi that most commonly cause mucormycosis

Examples are Rhizopus species, Mucor species, Rhizomucor species, Syncephalastrum species, Cunninghamella bertholletiae, Apophysomyces species, and Lichtheimia (formerly Absidia) species.8

  1. Richardson M. The ecology of the Zygomycetes and its impact on environmental exposureexternal icon. 2009 Oct;15 Suppl 5:2-9.
  2. Petrikkos G, Skiada A, Lortholary O, Roilides E, Walsh TJ, Kontoyiannis DP. Epidemiology and clinical manifestations of mucormycosisexternal icon. Clin Infect Dis. 2012 Feb;54 Suppl 1:S23-34.
  3. Ribes JA, Vanover-Sams CL, Baker DJ. Zygomycetes in human diseaseexternal icon. Clin Microbiol Rev 2000; 13:236-301.
  4. Song Y, Qiao J, Giovanni G, Liu G, Yang H, Wu J, Chen J. Mucormycosis in renal transplant recipients: review of 174 reported casesexternal icon. BMC Infect Dis. 2017 Apr; 17(1): 283.
  5. Abdalla A, Adelmann D, Fahal A, Verbrugh H, Van Belkum A, De Hoog S. Environmental occurrence of Madurella mycetomatis, the major agent of human eumycetoma in Sudanexternal icon. J Clin Microbiol. 2002 Mar; 40(3): 1031–1036.
  6. Vallabhaneni S, Mody RK. Gastrointestinal mucormycosis in neonates: a reviewexternal icon. Current Fungal Infect Rep. 2015.
  7. Francis JR, Villanueva P, Bryant P, Blyth CC. Mucormycosis in children: review and recommendations for managementexternal icon. J Pediatric Infect Dis Soc. 2018 May 15;7(2):159-164.
  8. Roden MM, Zaoutis TE, Buchanan WL, Knudsen TA, Sarkisova TA, Schaufele RL, et al. Epidemiology and outcome of zygomycosis: a review of 929 reported casesexternal icon. Clin Infect Dis. 2005 Sep 1;41(5):634-53.
  9. Lewis RE, Kontoyiannis DP. Epidemiology and treatment of mucormycosis. Future Microbiolexternal icon. 2013 Sep;8(9):1163-75.
  10. Spellberg B, Edwards Jr. J,, Ibrahim A. Novel perspectives on mucormycosis: pathophysiology, presentation, and managementexternal icon. Clin Microbiol Rev. 2005 Jul;18(3):556-69.