Facts About a Flesh-Eating Fungal Infection, Mucormycosis

But before you decide to never enter a hospital again, here are a few facts regarding mucormycosis:

While most mucormycosis infections are life-threatening, they are quite rare in healthy individuals. These terrible infections are usually seen in people who have uncontrolled, flaring diabetes (diabetic ketoacidosis), or in those with severely compromised immune systems (like leukemia patients receiving immune- suppressing medications).

This is why the best way to treat these infections, which can affect the skin, gastrointestinal system, and central nervous system, is to treat the underlying condition, in addition to providing antifungal and possibly surgical therapy.

Diabetic ketoacidosis requires insulin, correction of acidosis with sodium bicarbonate, and rehydration. Low white-blood cell counts associated with leukemia should be reversed, if possible, with the use of colony-stimulating factors and the withdrawal of cytotoxic chemotherapy. Leukemia patients should be weaned off immunosuppressive drugs, if possible.

Other risk factors for mucormycosis include extreme malnutrition, trauma and the use of contaminated medical supplies (in the New Orleans case, linens that were colonized by the fungus).

Natural disasters (after hurricanes, tsunamis, or tornados) may be associated with mucormycosis outbreaks because the major route of infection is inhalation of aerosolized fungal spores. Open wound infections are also a risk factor.

Surviving mucormycosis requires rapid diagnosis and aggressive coordinated medical and surgical therapy. Those with mucormycosis NEED to be treated in a hospital with subspecialty units experienced in the care of the condition and the underlying causes. DO NOT MESS AROUND WITH THIS INFECTION.

The incidence of mucormycosis is rising. If and when this infection occurs, attempts must be made to identify a source or route of transmission for which control measures can be implemented. As in the New Orleans hospital case, linens should be considered as one potential vehicle for the transmission of the fungus.

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