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Mucormycosis Infection: Definition & Histopathology

Instructor: Dan Washmuth

Dan has taught college Nutrition, Anatomy, Physiology, and Sports Nutrition courses and has a master's degree in Dietetics & Nutrition.

Mucormycosis infections are rare infections caused by a specific group of fungi/mold. Be sure to read this lesson to educate yourself on the definition and histopathology of a mucormycosis infection.

Fungal Infection

Jake is a 37-year-old who was just having a BBQ with friends when a bad grilling accident happened. He was hospitalized for severe burns to his arms, shoulders, and upper torso.

Although his burns hurt pretty badly and were not yet healed, Jake decided to go on a hunting trip that he and his friends had been planning for the past few months. It was so hot and humid on his hunting trip that Jake wore only a t-shirt, leaving the burns on his arms exposed to the outside air.

A little while after the trip, Jake started to feel quite ill. He developed a fever and his burn wounds become more painful. They looked like they might have gotten infected. Jake went to the ER to get examined. After several different tests, a doctor at the hospital informed Jake that he had acquired a mucormycosis infection.

What is a Mucormycosis Infection?

Mucormycosis infections are rare infections caused by a specific group of fungi/mold called mucormycetes. These fungi are often found in decaying matter like produce, wood, and leaves and usually only infect people with compromised immune systems say from HIV, cancer, and yes, burns.

Jake most likely came into contact with mucormycetes while walking through dead leaves and wood during his hunting trip, and the burns and open wounds on this arms made him more susceptible to infection.

Mucormycetes are often found in rotting wood and leaves.
rotting wood

Mucormycosis infections can occur in several different areas of the body, with each area causing different symptoms, for example the:

  • Rhinocerebral region (brain and sinuses): headaches, protruding eyes, confusion, sinus pain
  • Lungs: coughing (sometimes with blood), fever, difficulty breathing
  • Gastrointestinal: stomach pains, gastrointestinal bleeding, diarrhea, vomiting blood
  • Skin: lesions, ulcers, hardening or blackening of the skin

Histopathology

Histopathology involves the study and examination of diseased cells and tissues under a microscope. Mucormycosis infections are usually associated with

  • tissue necrosis (tissue death)
  • hemorrhage (severe bleeding due to ruptured blood vessels) and
  • thrombosis (blood clots)

Additionally, microscopic examination of mucormycosis infections will often reveal granulomas, which are a collection of immune cells that form as a result of an infection. When the mucormycetes enter the body, the immune system will send various types of white blood cells, like macrophages, designed to kill and eliminate the fungi in order to prevent infection.

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