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Mucor, a Most Destructive Mold

Mucor is a fungus found world-wide, a tiny, black pin mold which is most often apparent on breads and bread products. Although it is typically discovered indoors, it can also grow in hay, soil, stored seeds, and horse manure. Mucor mold can develop on plants and rotting fruits and vegetables. An accumulation of house dust in HVAC systems and poorly maintained carpeting can harbor mucor spores.

Mucor MoldThis type of mold is a most invasive organism, and responsible for the contamination of many kinds of stored food products. When the spore is inhaled or ingested, it can not only affect the respiratory system, but can also cause problems to the digestive tract as well. Workers whose occupations include exposure to wood chips and sawdust are susceptible to mucor allergies.

The colonies are very fast growing and their prevalence is of considerable economic concern in the field of food production and a substantial factor in the depletion of our healthcare dollars.

Symptoms and Health Effects
Mucor is a harmful mold that can adversely affect the respiratory system. Exposure to constant high levels of mucor can cause or worsen the symptoms of asthma. Other symptoms include elevated temperature, flu-like symptoms, malaise, and difficulty breathing. Constant exposure to the spores can be extremely dangerous to those with weak immune systems. A severe reaction to mucor can cause mucormycosis or zygomycosis, and extrinsic allergic alveolitis.

Mucormycosis is a disease brought about by inhaling spores produced by mucor molds. The fungal infection typically causes a reaction in the eyes and nose, but the most common site for serious infection is the lungs, sinuses, and brain. In some cases, mucor invades arteries whereby blood clots can form, blocking vessels to the brain. A tissue sample is the best method of identifying mucormycosis. Because mucor molds are environmental, exposure to the spores is common; however, it does not always onset an infection. A vulnerable individual can also develop mucormycosis of the digestive system, kidneys, and skin.

‘Ripley’s Believe It or Not’ documents the case of a man whose face was eaten away by a flesh-eating mold that grew in his sinus cavities - Mucor.

Extrinsic Allergic Alveolitis may develop when individuals are exposed to airborne allergens. An allergen can cause a defensive chemical reaction in the body in order to protect the lungs, but, in some cases, it can actually trigger inflammation and damage the alveoli, small air sacs in the lungs. Mucor mold is one of the allergens that can cause this harmful response, and without early and proper diagnosis, it can cause considerable and irreversible lung damage. Because the lung infection mimics symptoms of the common cold or an asthma attack, it often eludes proper diagnosis. The common tests for diagnosis such as chest x-ray, blood tests and breathing function tests may not distinguish between extrinsic allergic alveolitis and other types of lung problems. A biopsy of the infected tissue is the best method of obtaining a definitive and accurate diagnosis.

Treatment of Mucor-Caused Diseases
The ideal solution is to avoid environments where the allergen may exist. Individuals, especially those with compromised immune systems, should stay away from areas where they experience any of the related symptoms. Whenever feasible, the use of respiratory protective equipment can protect lungs from air-borne mold.

Treatment of the symptoms must begin immediately, even before a definitive diagnosis is pronounced. At the onset of breathing problems, one should consider medication such as antihistamines, anti-inflammatory medications and/or inhalers to improve their condition. If the symptoms persist, it is advisable to consult a pulmonologist, a doctor who specializes in disorders of the respiratory system, and is especially skilled in the diagnosis and treatment of lung disease.


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