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Mucormycosis (zygomycosis)

Gary M Cox, MD
Section Editor
Carol A Kauffman, MD
Deputy Editor
Anna R Thorner, MD


Mucormycosis is manifested by a variety of different syndromes in humans, particularly in immunocompromised patients and those with diabetes mellitus [1]. Devastating rhino-orbital-cerebral and pulmonary infections are the most common syndromes caused by these fungi.

There is some controversy over the terminology used to refer to infections due to this group of fungi. The term "mucormycosis" was used for years and then was supplanted by "zygomycosis" for several decades. Based on molecular studies, "mucormycosis" is currently again the appropriate term [1-4].

The microbiology, clinical manifestations, diagnosis, and therapy of mucormycosis will be reviewed here. Several specific syndromes that can be caused by these fungi are discussed separately. (See "Fungal rhinosinusitis" and "Non-access-related infections in chronic dialysis patients".)


The genera in the order Mucorales cause most human infection. These organisms are ubiquitous in nature and can be found on decaying vegetation and in the soil. These fungi grow rapidly and release large numbers of spores that can become airborne. Because the agents of mucormycosis are common in the environment, they are relatively frequent contaminants in the clinical microbiology laboratory; all humans have ample exposure to these fungi during day-to-day activities. The fact that mucormycosis is a rare human infection reflects the effectiveness of the intact human immune system. This is further supported by the finding that almost all human infections due to the agents of mucormycosis occur in the presence of some underlying compromising condition.

The genera most commonly found in human infections are Rhizopus, Mucor, and Rhizomucor; Cunninghamella, Absidia, Saksenaea, and Apophysomyces are genera that are less commonly implicated in infection [5].


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Literature review current through: Jul 2017. | This topic last updated: Jan 25, 2017.
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