Zygomycosis is the broadest term to refer to infections caused by bread mold fungi of the zygomycota phylum. However, because zygomycota has been identified as polyphyletic, and is not included in modern fungal classification systems, the diseases that zygomycosis can refer to are better called by their specific names: mucormycosis (after Mucorales), phycomycosis (Phycomycetes) and basidiobolomycosis (after Basidiobolus). These rare yet serious and potentially life-threatening fungal infections usually affect the face or oropharyngeal (nose and mouth) cavity.
Zygomycosis-type infections are most often caused by common fungi found in soil and decaying vegetation. While most individuals are exposed to the fungi on a regular basis, those with immune disorders (immunocompromised) are more prone to fungal infection. These types of infections are also common after natural disasters, such as tornadoes or earthquakes, where people have open wounds that have become filled with soil or vegetative matter.
The condition may affect the gastrointestinal tract or the skin. In non-trauma cases, it usually begins in the nose and paranasal sinuses and is one of the most rapidly spreading fungal infections in humans. Common symptoms include thrombosis and tissue necrosis. Treatment consists of prompt and intensive antifungal drug therapy and surgery to remove the infected tissue. The prognosis varies vastly depending upon an individual patient’s circumstances.