Mucormycosis (cont.)

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What is mucormycosis (zygomycosis)?

Mucormycosis is the general term that indicates any fungal infection caused by various genera of the class Zygomycetes. Another term used in medical and lay publications that means the same is phycomycosis. Mucormycosis can result in an acute, rapidly advancing, and occasionally fatal disease caused by different fungi commonly found in the soil or environment. These fungal infections are diagnosed relatively infrequently; however, they occur in individual people who are debilitated in some major way (uncontrolled diabetics, immunodepressed patients) and occasionally in groups of people that are injured (often multiple injuries and penetrating injuries that are contaminated with soil and water from the environment). Such groups of people are those that are injured in disasters such as tsunamis, hurricanes, earthquakes or tornadoes, where otherwise healthy people can have contaminated soil and water inhaled, embedded in wounds, or simply forced into skin, mouth, eyes, and nose by the force of water, soil, or wind pressure. The disease is not passed person to person. The most recent cluster of mucormycosis infections in people have been reported in individuals who initially survived the Joplin, Missouri, devastating tornadoes on May 23, 2011. At least 15 patients, all with severe wounds, have been diagnosed and at least five have died, in part due to mucormycosis as of June 17, 2011, but the CDC investigation is ongoing, and these numbers are likely to change, according to CDC officials.

Because the majority of mucormycosis infections are caused by one family member in the class of Zygomycetes (family member Mucoraceae), many clinicians now term the disease mucormycosis instead of zygomycosis, the more "general" term. The lay press has used terms like "Black Death" and "Zombie disease" to describe this fungal infection but such terms seldom help people to understand this disease. Such terms may cause misunderstandings between the patients, their families, and the public; many clinicians think these potentially harmful or cruel terms should not be used by responsible individuals.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/30/2014

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