What is Mucormycosis?
Mucormycosis (or commonly known as Black Fungus), also medically known as zygomycosis is a serious but rare fungal infection caused by a group of molds called mucormycetes. These molds live throughout the environment, particularly in soil and in decaying organic matter, such as leaves, compost piles, or rotten wood.
Mucormycosis usually affects people who have health problems or take medicines that lower the body’s ability to fight germs and sickness. It can also develop on the skin after the fungus enters the skin through a cut, scrape, burn, other type of skin trauma or by coming in contact with the fungal spores in the environment. For example, the lung or sinus forms of the infection can occur after someone breathes in spores.
Types of mucormycosis
- Rhinocerebral (sinus and brain) Mucormycosis
- Pulmonary (lung) Mucormycosis
- Gastrointestinal Mucormycosis
- Cutaneous (skin) Mucormycosis
- Disseminated Mucormycosis
What are the symptoms of mucormycosis?
Mucormycosis presents itself as either a respiratory or a skin infection. Signs of a related sinus or respiratory infection may include cough, fever, headache, nasal congestion or sinus pain.
With a skin infection, mucormycosis can develop within any part of your body. It may initially occur at the site of skin trauma, but it can quickly spread to another area. Be on the lookout for symptoms such as blackened skin tissue, blisters, fever, redness, swelling or ulcers.
How is mucormycosis diagnosed?
People who have mucormycosis often don’t know they have it. Mucormycosis is diagnosed by looking at a tissue sample in the lab. Your doctor may collect a sample of phlegm or nasal discharge if you have a suspected sinus infection. In the case of a skin infection, your doctor may also clean the wounded area in question.
Can mucormycosis cause other conditions to develop?
Mucormycosis is particularly dangerous because it spreads quickly throughout the body. Left untreated, the infection can spread to the lungs or the brain and can cause other medical conditions like a brain infection, paralysis, pneumonia, seizures.
How is mucormycosis treated?
The first steps in treating mucormycosis are receiving intravenous (IV) antifungal medications and having surgical debridement. Surgical debridement involves cutting away all infected tissue. Removing infected tissue has been shown to prevent the infection from spreading further.
If you respond well to IV therapy and tissue removal, your doctor will likely remove your IV and give you oral medications to take.
What is the outlook for mucormycosis?
Chances for mucormycosis recovery depend greatly on early diagnosis and treatment. The infection has the potential to spread throughout the body. Death is a possibility with this type of severe infection.
However, mucormycosis is relatively rare. To be on the safe side, you should always have your doctor evaluate any suspected form of infection to rule out such serious underlying causes.
Is it possible to prevent a mucormycosis infection?
Mucormycosis isn’t contagious, so you can’t get it from an infected person. Self-care measures are the best way to prevent this type of infection. If you have a weakened immune system, it’s important to keep yourself safe outdoors. Wearing a mask while doing yard work and bandaging all wounds until they heal will help prevent fungal infections.
You may also consider taking extra precautions during the summer and autumn months, when there’s an increased amount of the fungi in the environment.