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Mucormycosis
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Mucormycosis

(Zygomycosis)

Pronounced: MU-kor-mi-ko-sis

En Español (Spanish Version)

Definition

Mucormycosis is an infection caused by a fungus that typically affects the sinuses, brain, or lungs. The infection most commonly occurs in people who suffer from a compromised immune system. Mucormycosis is a serious infection, and prognosis is usually poor, even with treatment.

Causes

Mucormycosis is caused by a fungus. While the fungus is typically found in soil and decaying plants, most people are not sickened by it. However, people with weakened immune systems—including people with diabetes, AIDS, leukemia , lymphoma, and recent organ transplants—are susceptible to infection from the fungus.

Risk Factors

A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease or condition.

The following factors increase your chance of developing mucormycosis:

  • Having a weakened immune system caused by:
    • Diabetes
    • AIDS
    • Leukemia
    • Lymphoma
    • Recently receiving an organ transplant
    • Long-term steroid use
    • Treatment with deferoxamine (an antidote to iron poisoning)
    • Metabolic acidosis (too much acid in the blood)
  • Having a sinus infection
  • Having pneumonia
  • Having mucormycosis of the gastrointestinal tract, skin, and kidneys

Symptoms

  • Symptoms of infections of the sinuses and the brain (rhinocerebral mucormycosis):
    • Acute sinusitis
    • Fever
    • Swollen or protruding eyes
    • Dark nasal scabs
    • Redness of the skin over the sinuses
  • Symptoms of infections of the lungs (pulmonary mucormycosis):
    • Fever
    • Cough; occasionally coughing up blood
    • Shortness of breath
  • Symptoms of infections of the gastrointestinal tract (gastrointestinal mucormycosis):
    • Abdominal pain
    • Vomiting blood
  • Symptoms of infections in the kidneys (renal mucormycosis):
    • Pain in the side between the upper abdomen and the back
    • Fever

Diagnosis

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, and perform a physical exam.

Tests may include the following:

  • CT scan—a type of x-ray that uses a computer to make pictures of structures inside the affected area
  • MRI scan—a test that uses magnetic waves to make pictures of structures inside the affected area
  • Analysis of a tissue sample

Treatment

Early surgical treatment is recommended to improve prognosis. Even with surgery and therapies, prognosis is usually poor. Treatment options include:

  • Surgery—Aggressive surgery may be done to remove all of the dead and/or infected tissues.
  • Antifungal therapy—Intravenous antifungal medications may be used to kill the fungus throughout the body.

Prevention

The fungus that causes mucormycosis is commonly found throughout the environment, so avoiding contact with the fungus is difficult. The best method of prevention is controlling or preventing the conditions and illnesses associated with mucormycosis.

RESOURCES:

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

US National Library of Medicine
http://www.nlm.nih.gov/

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

BC Health Guide
http://www.bchealthguide.org/

Health Canada
http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/index_e.html

References:

Fungal infections. National Foundation for Infectious Diseases website. Available at: http://www.nfid.org/publications/fungal_archive/fungal.html. Accessed April 15, 2007.

Mucormycosis. The University of Tennessee Medical Center website. Available at: http://www.utmedicalcenter.org/encyclopedia/?file=000649sym.htm. Accessed April 15, 2007.

Radha S, Tameem T, Fernandez DK, Satyanarayana G. Gastric zygomycosis (mucormycosis). The Internet J Pathol. 2007;5(2). Available at: http://www.ispub.com/ostia/index.php?xmlFilePath=journals/ijpa/vol5n2/zygo.xml. Accessed April 15, 2007.



Last reviewed April 2008 by David Horn, MD, FACP

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.


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