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Published: March 4, 2019, Updated:

Mucor

Colds, allergies and seasonal flus are minor illnesses that are present all year round. These infections are often caused by fungal or microbial contamination.

If you want to learn about some common pathogens that happen to belong to the kingdom of fungi, don’t miss this article on Mucor – a common mold that is probably residing everywhere from your attic to your basement.

Here are some important notes about this mold that can help you stay on top.

What is Mucor?

Mucor is a genus of fungi that consists of approximately 50 species [1]. They commonly reside in soils, on plants and even in the digestive systems of various animals. Mucor colonies are rapidly growing, possess a cottony or fluffy texture and are white to yellow in colour, often turning dark or olive grey as they mature and start to develop spores.

Mucor spores are frequently identified in the indoor air of homes, schools and offices around the world. They can often be found in house dust, dirty carpets and in ventilation ducts. These spores are inhaled by humans on a daily basis, but are mostly harmless. Luckily, most species of Mucor can’t grow at 37°C. However, several thermotolerant species exist and are known to cause opportunistic infections of humans and animals.

Most human infections are caused by M. circinelloides and similar species such as M. indicus, M. ramosissimus, M. irregularis and M. amphibiorum.

However, M. hiemalis and M. racemosus have also been reported as infectious agents. As they are unable grow at temperatures above 32°C, their pathogenic role is likely limited to infections of the skin [2].

Where can be Mucor mold found?

Most species of Mucor have cosmopolitan distribution. They can be found in soil, on plants, on decaying fruits and vegetables, stored grains, dairy products and animal dung. Indoors, their spores can be found in household dust, carpets, and mattresses and can develop into molds on water damaged structural material [5].

Is Mucor mold dangerous?

Along with several other genera belonging to the Mucorales family of fungi, Mucor can cause a wide range of diseases in humans. Collectively, these diseases are called mucormycoses. They can be cutaneous, gastrointestinal, pulmonary, rhinocerebral or disseminated [3]. Often fatal, mucormycosis usually occurs in people already suffering from some sort of disease.

The common underlying diseases associated with mucormycosis include diabetes mellitus (with or without diabetic ketoacidosis), haematological malignancies such as leukaemia or lymphoma, and solid organ tumors. Furthermore, transplant recipients (haematopoetic stem cell or organ transplants), dialysis patients who are on prolonged deferoxamine therapy due to iron overload, and individuals undergoing corticosteroid therapy are also at risk.

Other risk factors include HIV, intravenous drug use, low birth weight infants, malnutrition, chronic alcoholism, liver disease and chemotherapy. However, a significant number of cases have been reported even in people without any underlying disease or risk factor [4].

What are Mucor mold health effects?

Given the fact that humans are exposed to these ubiquitous organisms everywhere from their home to their workplace, the threat of Mucor to human health is ever-present. In fact, the effects of co-habiting with this mold can be deadly for individuals already suffering from disease. Even healthy people may suffer from irregular cold infections by inhaling these airborne pathogens.

Symptoms of Mucor infection can be quite varied depending on the area of infection. Symptoms of rhinocerebral infection include:

  • Nasal or sinus congestion
  • Headache
  • Fever
  • One-sided facial swelling
  • Black lesions on the roof of the mouth

Pulmonary infections may show the following symptoms:

  • Coughing
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fever

Symptoms of gastrointestinal infection:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Gastrointestinal bleeding

Common symptoms of cutaneous infection are:

  • Blisters or ulcers
  • Discoloration of infected area
  • Pain, warmth, excessive redness of the skin
  • Swelling around a wound

Disseminated Mucor infections usually occur in people already suffering from another disease, so pinpointing the symptoms related to Mucor can be difficult. In any case, this sort of infection is extremely dangerous and life threatening [6].

What is Mucor infection?

Generally speaking, the immune system is well equipped to deal with Mucor infections. However, in immunocompromised patients, infection can be acute and serious. Mucor infections are characterized by fungal vascular invasion, leading to thrombosis, infarction, and necrosis of tissue [3].

In most cases, Mucor infection generally occurs through:

  • Inhalation of spores
  • Ingestion
  • Traumatic implantation
  • Surgery
  • Contamination of burn wounds
  • Traumatized skin
  • Ears, nose, nails and eyes

Infections by Mucor and several other species belonging to the Mucorales family are called mucormycoses. Several main types of mucormycosis are recognized:

  • Cutaneous mucormycosis: Infection usually occurs by injection or by implantation in wounds, particularly burn wounds.
  • Rhinocerebral mucormycosis: Infection occurs due to inhalation and subsequent germination of spores in the nose or paranasal sinuses. Development is rapid, especially when arterial walls are infected.
  • Pulmonary mucormycosis: Usually originates from inhaled spores or from disseminated mucormycosis. Due to the oxygen rich environment, development of mycelia in the lungs can be very fast, and the consequences are often fatal.
  • Gastrointestinal mucormycosis: Most often caused by ingestion of spoiled food. Can also occur following abdominal surgery.
  • Disseminated mucormycosis: Infection usually starts in the respiratory system and may spread into the central nervous system or vascular system. In severely immunocompromised patients, mucormycosis can develop in practically any organ [3].

How does Mucor cause pneumonia?

Mucormycosis pneumonia is one of the most dangerous Mucor related infections. It is usually associated with pulmonary or rhinocerebral mucormycosis. Prolonged neutropenia, elevated serum iron, and other pulmonary infections are recognized as the main risk factors for pneumonia of this type. Although it almost always affects immunocompromised patients, there are several reports of it occurring in people with no underlying immune deficiency. Although less common than infections caused by Candida or Aspergillus, the mortality rate of mucormycosis pneumonia (60% or greater) is higher than that of most other fungal pathogens [7].

How to identify Mucor mold in your home?

If it happens to find a suitable environment in your home, Mucor can rapidly develop into a sporulating mold, potentially causing damage to your health. It can usually be found in damp areas of the house, such as bathrooms, areas under sinks or on any water damaged structural material. Of course, correctly identifying the mold yourself is difficult, so the best solution is to hire professional mold testing service.

How to get rid of Mucor mold?

Tackling the mold on your own is rarely a good idea, especially in situations where the mold growth is substantial and well developed. Not only is the mold persistent and difficult to fully eradicate, but by coming into close contact with it you increase the likeliness of inhaling an excessive amount of spores. This can be detrimental to the health of even the fittest person and is usually not worth the risk.

At Mold Busters we have a proven track record of completely removing any type of mold. Our technicians possess the knowledge, experience and technology needed to solve any mold related issue. In addition, we can shed light on any underlying issues that may need to be fixed in order to ensure that any mold doesn’t reoccur in the future. Call us today to book your appointment.

References:

  1. Weber RW (2015). Allergen of the month – Mucor. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 115(2):A15.
  2. Ellis D (2019). Mucor. Retrieved from mycology.adelaide.edu.au.
  3. Howard DH (2003). Pathogenic Fungi in Humans and Animals. Marcel Dekker, New York. pp 67-121.
  4. Prakash H, Chakrabarti A (2019). Global Epidemiology of Mucormycosis. J Fungi (Basel). 5(1).
  5. Andersen B, Frisvad JC, Søndergaard I, Rasmussen IS, Larsen LS (2011). Associations between fungal species and water-damaged building materials. Applied and Environmental Microbiology. 77 (12): 4180–8.
  6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2015). Symptoms of Mucormycosis. Retrieved from cdc.gov.
  7. Quan C, Spellberg B (2010). Mucormycosis, pseudallescheriasis, and other uncommon mold infections. Proc Am Thorac Soc. 7(3):210-5.

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