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Condition Detail

(Zygomycosis)

Definition

Mucormycosis is an infection that can affect the sinuses, brain, lungs, and sometimes the skin. The infection occurs most often in people who have a weakened immune system. It is a serious infection that can be fatal.

Causes

Mucormycosis is caused by a fungus that is often found in soil, decaying plants or wood, and compost piles. The fungus enters the body through cuts or scrapes in the skin or by being inhaled into the sinuses and airways. Once in the body, the fungus can spread rapidly and quickly become fatal.
A healthy immune system can often manage the fungus and eliminate it before problems begin. However, the fungus can grow and cause severe damage if the body does not have a strong immune system.

Risk Factors

A weakened immunes system increases your chance of mucormycosis. Conditions or treatments that weaken your immune system include:
  • Diabetes
  • AIDS
  • Leukemia
  • Lymphoma
  • Being the recipient of an organ transplant
  • Long-term steroid use
  • Treatment with deferoxamine (an antidote to iron poisoning)
  • Metabolic acidosis (too much acid in the blood)
Chronic sinus infection can also increase your risk of mucormycosis.
Sinus Cavity
Sinus Infection
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Symptoms

Symptoms will depend on the location of the infection. Inhaled mucormycosis may lead to:
  • Fever
  • Facial pain
  • Swollen or protruding eyes
  • Redness of the skin over the sinuses
  • Cough; occasionally coughing up blood
  • Shortness of breath
  • Abdominal pain
  • Vomiting blood
  • Pain in the side between the upper abdomen and the back
An infection in the skin may start with blisters or sores around the skin wound. The skin tissue may later be tender, red, swollen, and turn black.

Diagnosis

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. A sample of the infected tissue will be taken and examined in a lab.
A CT scan or MRI scan may be done to look for damage to internal structures.

Treatment

Mucormycosis is a very serious infection and requires aggressive treatment. Early treatment can lead to better outcomes. Antifungal medication is started as soon as possible. It may be given as a pill or by IV.
If the infection involves the skin, all of the dead and/or infected tissue will be removed. Early surgery may lead to better prognosis.

Prevention

The fungus that causes this infection is found in many places. Avoiding contact with it is difficult.
The best preventative step is to control or prevent the conditions that make you vulnerable to mucormycosis.

RESOURCES

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

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

CANADIAN RESOURCES

The Canadian Lung Association http://www.lung.ca/

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

References

Mucormycosis. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/fungal/mucormycosis/ . Accessed May 20, 2013.

Mucormycosis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php . Updated May 16, 2013. Accessed May 20, 2013.

Radha S, Tameem T, Fernandez DK, Satyanarayana G. Gastric zygomycosis (mucormycosis). The Internet J Pathol . 2007;5(2).

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