Zygomycosis : Understanding the Rare Fungal Infection and Its Symptoms

Zygomycosis : Understanding the Rare Fungal Infection and Its Symptoms

A variety of fungus in the zygomycetes class of fungi can cause zygomycosis, a category of fungal illnesses. The class contains the important medical orders mucorales and entomophthorales.

A variety of fungus in the zygomycetes class of fungi can cause zygomycosis, a category of fungal illnesses. The class contains the important medical orders mucorales and entomophthorales. The more serious form of the disease known as mucormycosis, which is typically observed in immunocompromised hosts, is caused by mucorales. As opposed to this, there are two kinds of entomophthoromycosis produced by fungus in the order entomophthorales: subcutaneous zygomycosis (B. ran arum) and rhino facial zygomycosis (Conidiobolus coronatus).

 Saprophytes like B. ran arum can be found in soil, rotting vegetables, and frogs' digestive tracts. Clinical manifestations of basidiobolomycosis include chronic subcutaneous tissue infection affecting the trunk and extremities of immunocompetent hosts.

A type of widely distributed organisms known as zygomycetes is responsible for clinically significant fungal infections in humans. Two orders, mucorales and entomophthorales, can be found within the class Zygomycetes. Members of the entomophthorales order, like B. ranarum, are known to cause persistent skin and subcutaneous tissue infections.

They typically do not spread to internal organs.On the other hand, the order Mucorales is more likely to affect immunocompromised hosts and produce invasive diseases such pulmonary, rhinocerebellar, and gastrointestinal infections.In a small number of studies, mucorales are identified as the pathogen responsible for cutaneous/subcutaneous infections in immunocompetent people.


It is believed that inhaling spores from environmental sources is the primary method of disease transmission for zygomycetes. In an experiment, when rabbits were infected by inhaling a spore solution through their noses, the disease first affected their upper and lower respiratory systems before spreading to their central nerve systems.Dust spore inhalation also causes allergic interstitial pneumonitis or alveoli-tis syndrome, which affects workers in the malt and lumber industries, as well as rhino-cerebral or pulmonary zygomycosis outbreaks linked to construction sites, contaminated air conditioning filters and excavation.

Consuming fermented milk along with dried bread products, fermented porridge and alcoholic beverages made from maize may help to promote stomach zygomycosis.Additionally, gastrointestinal sickness has been connected to spore-contaminated herbal or homoeopathic medicines.A number of infections were probably spread orally by tongue depressors used for oropharyngeal examinations in a hematology/oncology clinic that were spore-contaminated. Animals are most prone to contract an infection through the consumption of mouldy hay or grains.

The zygomycetes' ability to infect people through percutaneous routes of exposure is also crucial. Numerous people have experienced the traumatising implantation of spores in dirt. Infections caused by zygomycotic fungi at injection sites for drugs, catheter insertion sites, illicit drug injection sites, and tattooing sites have all been linked to needle-stick exposures. The spread of cutaneous and subcutaneous zygomycosis has also been linked to insect bites or stings. With a number of adhesive materials used in the hospital setting, wound zygomycosis has been observed to develop.

Risk factors

Despite the fact that healthy people have a robust natural resistance to infection by the zygomycetes, risk factors for zygomycosis were identified decades ago. Early on, it was believed that the main risk factor for developing rhino-cerebral zygomycosis was diabetes mellitus.Two of the three patients mentioned in Gregory et al.'s original publication had diabetic ketoacidosis when they first presented, while the third patient was believed to have undetected diabetes. This article was the first to describe fulminant rhino-cerebral zygomycosis.

Rhizopus arrhizus, a typical zygomycete, has been used extensively in diabetic animal models to study the mechanism underlying this correlation between the development of diabetic ketoacidosis and zygomycosis. When diabetic ketoacidosis is present, the relationship is stronger. In the diabetic-rabbit paradigm, subcutaneous R. arrhizus inoculation into acutely diabetic animals causes disseminated illness and mortality, whereas in metabolically normal rabbits, the infection was limited at the sites of inoculation and spontaneous recovery was observed.Likewise, intranasal R. arrhizus spore infection resulted in disseminated zygomycosis in experimentally produced diabetic rats but not in healthy control animals.

Neutrophils are essential in the fight against fungal infections once the infection has taken hold in the normal host. Neutrophils are nevertheless able to mediate fungal killing despite the hyphal components' huge size and the inflammatory cells' incapacity to take them in. Chemotactically, neutrophils are drawn to the hyphae on which they adhere and proliferate. Neutrophils harm and eliminate the fungal components without phagocytosis by using their oxidative cytotoxic mechanism.

Disease manifestations

The primary human disease subgroups associated with the Mucorales are disseminated zygomycosis, pulmonary, cutaneous/subcutaneous, gastrointestinal, and sinusitis/rhino-cerebral illness. Other disease states, such as cystitis, vaginal or gastrointestinal colonisation, external otitis, and allergy illness, happen far less frequently.

Rhino-cerebral disease

Between one-third and fifty percent of all instances of zygomycosis are caused by rhino-cerebral illness. When fungus spores are inhaled, the process begins in the sinuses. According to estimates, diabetic ketoacidosis is the cause of 70% of cases of rhino-cerebral zygomycosis.

Pulmonary disease

Another prominent manifestation of this group of organisms is pulmonary illness. The majority of cases with primary pulmonary involvement are caused by leukaemia, lymphoma, and diabetes mellitus.There are numerous distinct pulmonary illness presentations. isolated single nodular lesion, involvement of the lobar region vascular lesions

Cutaneous disease

Cutaneous illness can develop as a result of disseminated disease or initial inoculation. These two disease processes will manifest clinically in very different ways. When a preexisting lesion gets bigger, the fungus causes an acute inflammatory reaction that includes pus, abscess formation, tissue swelling, and necrosis. The lesions may be indurated and red, but they frequently grow to develop into black eschars. The sloughing off of necrotic tissue can result in massive ulcers.

Gastrointestinal disease

It is not very frequent for zygomycetes to induce gastrointestinal illness. Gastric involvement has been described in two disorders. With only superficial involvement in ulcerative lesions, gastric colonisation takes place. The surface of these colonised ulcers frequently has a velvety appearance. This syndrome is distinguished by the absence of vascular invasion and a high rate of survival.


Medical management or correction of the underlying illness that is predisposing the patient to the disease is necessary in addition to surgical intervention and anti-fungal therapy for the treatment of zygomycosis. A retrospective analysis of 255 cases of pulmonary illness compared patient survival for those who received surgical treatment vs those who did not.

Compared to individuals who only received anti-fungal medication, surgical resection for patients with isolated pulmonary illness significantly increased survival.  When there is only localised disease and no spread, surgery responds well. Despite several case reports of a single therapy method curing a patient, these instances are the exception, not the rule. There are prominent instances of zygomycosis that can only be treated surgically.

For the majority of zygomycosis cases brought on by Mucorales, amphotericin B is the first-line treatment of choice. Amphotericin affects the structure of fungal cell walls to exert its anti-fungal effects. This medication increases the permeability of cell walls by binding to ergosterol. Ions escape from the cell and the membrane depolarises as a result of permeabilisation. Amphotericin B has fatal side effects at dosages greater than those that promote permeability.

Preventive measures

At best, it is challenging to take preventative measures in people who are at risk for developing zygomycosis. Due to the low occurrence of zygomycosis, standard anti fungal prophylaxis is not offered, and there is also no compelling need to do so. Modifications and controls to the environment that lower the likelihood of exposure to airborne spores are the most often tried preventive treatments.

The majority of these preventative strategies are directed at patients who can be quickly identified as being at risk, specifically those who are anticipated to have profound neutropenia for an extended length of time. In order to prevent the recruitment of dust into the ward, transplantation and chemotherapy wards are frequently segregated using positive pressure and Hepafilter treatment of the air supply.