What is Mucormycosis?
Mucormycosis, which was previously called zygomycosis, is a rare yet serious fungal infection that is very aggressive and potentially life-threatening. The disease is so called because it is caused by molds belonging to the group Mucormycetes, which are colloquially known as “black fungi”. These fungi are ubiquitous, as they are found in air, soil and decaying organic matter, including leaves, wood, and compost, among others.
Mucormycosis is difficult to diagnose, as it exhibits many different symptoms that overlap with those of other infections.
The most common infection route is through the respiratory system by breathing-in spores of these fungi, which enter the lungs and sinuses, causing serious damage. These pathogenic fungi can also enter the body through broken skin, arising from cuts, scrapes, burns, and other forms of trauma.
These infections usually attack individuals having a weak immune system (technically termed are “immunocompromised”), as a result of which they can’t fight-off the pathogen. Individuals of all ages can potentially become infected, including premature babies.
Mucormycosis is not contagious, meaning that it can’t spread from person-to-person or from animals to humans.
The major complications of mucormycosis include blindness, organ dysfunction/failure, and even death.
Epidemiology of Mucormycosis
- Disease Burden: Mucormycosis is prevalent worldwide, but the exact global burden of disease is not clear. A study conducted in San Francisco indicated that the incidence is around 1.7 per million population in the US. Moreover, it has been suggested by experts that the incidence of mucormycosis is increasing.
- Mortality Rate: A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Atlanta, has indicated a mortality rate of 54 percent. In this context, it should be noted that the mortality rate can vary depending on the health of the patient, type of fungus, and site infected. For example, the mortality rate for disseminated mucormycosis is 96 percent, while for pulmonary and sinus mucormycosis, it is 76 percent and 46 percent, respectively.
- Reservoir: Mucormycetesare found everywhere in the environment, but most prominently in the soil. The specific environmental niches that are inhabited by these fungi vary with their genera and species.
- Transmission: These fungi can infect the body through various routes, but most commonly through inhalation of the spores from the environment. The spores can also be ingested. Hospital outbreaks have been reported that originated from contaminated bandages, tongue depressors, linen, and non-sterile medical devices, among others. Community outbreaks have been reported, which started from traumatic injuries sustained during natural disasters.
- Mucormycosis – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Atlanta, USA – (https://www.cdc.gov/fungal/diseases/mucormycosis/index.html)
- Mucormycosis – National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD) – (https://rarediseases.org/rare-diseases/mucormycosis/)
- COVID-19 and Mucormycosis Fungal Infection: All You Need to Know – (https://indianexpress.com/article/lifestyle/health/covid-19-mucormycosis-fungal-infection-what-to-know-7115013/)
- Mucormycosis (Zygomycosis) – MedicineNet – (https://www.medicinenet.com/mucormycosis/article.htm)
- Doctors flag post-COVID deadly fungal infection in patients – (https://punemirror.indiatimes.com/pune/civic/docs-flag-post-covid-fungal-infection/articleshow/79767538.cms)
- Mucormycosis Statistics – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Atlanta, USA – (https://www.cdc.gov/fungal/diseases/mucormycosis/statistics.html)