Mucormycosis (Zygomycosis)

  • Medical Author:
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

  • Medical Editor: Mary D. Nettleman, MD, MS, MACP
    Mary D. Nettleman, MD, MS, MACP

    Mary D. Nettleman, MD, MS, MACP

    Mary D. Nettleman, MD, MS, MACP is the Chair of the Department of Medicine at Michigan State University. She is a graduate of Vanderbilt Medical School, and completed her residency in Internal Medicine and a fellowship in Infectious Diseases at Indiana University.

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What is mucormycosis?

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, immunocompromised 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.

A cluster of mucormycosis infections occurred in people who initially survived devastating tornatoes which struck Joplin, Missouri, on May 23, 2011. Thirteen cases were confirmed, all in persons with severe wounds, including fractures, multiple wounds, penetrating injuries, and blunt trauma. Ten patients required intensive care and five died.

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 11/23/2015

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