Histologic features of zygomycosis: emphasis on perineural invasion and fungal morphology

Arch Pathol Lab Med. 2001 Mar;125(3):375-8. doi: 10.1043/0003-9985(2001)125<0375:HFOZ>2.0.CO;2.


Objective: Invasive zygomycosis is rapidly progressive and is associated with angioinvasion and infarction. Invasive disease requires emergent surgical and medical intervention. Because it is important for surgical pathologists to recognize these fungi and their preferential sites of growth, the objective of this article is to describe the fungal morphology and histopathologic findings in biopsies from patients with zygomycotic disease, with emphasis on preferential sites of fungal growth.

Design: Medical record and histologic review identified 20 patients with zygomycosis. Inclusion criteria included the presence of typical ribbonlike hyphae and positive culture, a clinical history of invasive zygomycosis, or both. The histologic features of disease and the fungal morphology were assessed.

Results: Fungus ball (15%), rhinocerebral (55%), and pulmonary (30%) disease were the types of disease represented. The inflammatory responses were predominantly neutrophilic (50%), predominantly granulomatous (5%), pyogranulomatous (25%), or absent (20%). Invasive disease was characterized by prominent infarcts (94%), angioinvasion (100%), and, surprisingly, prominent perineural invasion (90%) in biopsies that contained nerves for evaluation. At least rare hyphal septa were always seen (100%), and most branches (95%) varied from 45 degrees to 90 degrees.

Conclusions: As known to mycologists, zygomycetes are pauciseptate, rather than aseptate, molds. Therefore, the presence of an occasional septum is expected. Perineural invasion is a common finding in invasive zygomycosis, as are angioinvasion and infarcts. Therefore, prior to excluding the presence of these fungi in biopsies suspected to contain zygomycetes, the perineural space should be carefully examined.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Aspergillosis / diagnosis
  • Aspergillosis / microbiology
  • Aspergillus / cytology
  • Aspergillus / isolation & purification
  • Brain Diseases / microbiology
  • Brain Diseases / pathology
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Humans
  • Lung Diseases, Fungal / microbiology
  • Lung Diseases, Fungal / pathology
  • Mucorales / cytology
  • Mucorales / isolation & purification*
  • Mucorales / pathogenicity
  • Mucormycosis / pathology*
  • Peripheral Nerves / microbiology
  • Peripheral Nerves / pathology*
  • Species Specificity