Zygomycosis (Mucormycosis)

What is Zygomycosis?

Zygomycosis is also known as Mucormycosis and is an infection in the orders Mucorales and Entomophthorales. So, what is Zygomycosis?

In most cases species in the Mucor, Absidia, Rhizopus, and Cunninghamella are the most often implicated. Since the majority of human infections are caused by Mucorales fungi Mucormycosis is the term now used to classify this disease.

During the past ten years mucormycosis has emerged as the common cause of invasive fungal infections (IFIs). The pathogens that cause mucormycosis are frequently found in the environment on bread, on fruit, and in the soil and are common components of decaying organic debris.

Individuals increase their risk for contracting mucormycosis if they have undergone stem cell transplantation, use steroids, have poorly controlled diabetes mellitus, are intravenous drug users, and have experienced renal failure. Most people who develop mucormycosis are immunocompromised. Mucormycosis commonly infects the sinuses, brain, or lungs.

What are the Symptoms of Zygomycosis?

If the disease involves the brain, symptoms may include a one-sided headache behind the eyes, fevers, facial pains, nasal congestion that leads to black discharge, and eye swelling along with acute sinusitis.

Other symptoms may include a persistent cough and difficulty breathing. In instances of tissue death symptoms include nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain, and coughing up blood.

What are the causes Zygomycosis?

Zygomycosis is an umbrella term that covers a number of fungi that have their origins in environmental sources. These fungi cause a wide variety of problems, including several debilitating diseases.

Zygomycosis is very difficult to treat, usually ending up with a specific diagnosis of the type of fungi involved, then determining its source. Although individualized in their names, they are still often treatable in the same manner. Only in rare cases is death the result.

How is Zygomycosis Treated?

Treatment involves the use of Amphotericin B therapy or Posaconazole and surgically removing the “fungus ball”. In some cases surgery can be disfiguring because it involves removal of the nasal cavity, palate, or eye structures.

It’s also important to monitor the disease for any signs of reemergence.

Can Zygomycosis be prevented?

The primary preventive factor for zygomycosis is the avoidance or control of the risk factors, which is primarily present in the settings where the sufferer might have picked up the fungus. Zygomycosis cannot be considered rare, especially in areas outside of the US, and within the US the incidences of the disease are increasing.

As a result, it is a good idea to prevent situations where you would come into contact with the fungi normally associated with the condition. These sources range from moldy bread to mold that inhabits different soil types. Case clusters have also occurred in areas where natural disasters have taken place such as Joplin, Missouri, where flooding happened last year. Others include Hurricane Katrina and the tsunami that happened in Japan in 2004.

It is becoming increasingly common that clinicians prefer to class cases of zygomycosis as mucormycosis, which is more individualized in their identification and treatment. This makes the classification easier to treat and possibly prevent than if it is carried in a broader term. More general terms that are often used for the disease also carries with it connotations that many people misunderstand and even fear when they come across them.

It is more important to understand that treatment and even prevention is possible, which makes them more approachable in the early and treatable stages.

Last Reviewed:
October 11, 2016
Last Updated:
September 03, 2017
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