To assess the influence of diabetes mellitus in predisposing to pulmonary mucormycosis, a murine model of streptozotocin-induced diabetes was used. Intranasal inoculation of Rhizopus oryzae into diabetic mice resulted in mucormycotic infection with histopathology resembling pulmonary mucormycosis observed in humans. There was no mortality nor infection in inoculated normal mice. Diabetic mice had fatal infections caused by R. oryzae but significantly reduced mortality following inoculation with Aspergillus fumigatus. These findings reflect the specific enhanced susceptibility to mucormycosis observed in human diabetics. Normal bronchoalveolar macrophages formed part of an efficient defense against R. oryzae by inhibiting germination, the critical step in the conversion of R. oryzae to its tissue invasive phase. Bronchoalveolar macrophages inhibited spore germination in vitro and appeared to help prevent germination in vivo. In contrast, spore germination occurred in diabetic mice following intranasal inoculation. Diabetic bronchoalveolar macrophages had a decreased ability to attach to hyphae. In diabetic mice, bronchoalveolar macrophages could damage spores or hyphae of R. oryzae, but serum factors appeared to both promote spore germination and impair attachment of macrophages to spores. This murine model of diabetes mellitus provides an opportunity for evaluation of the relative importance of cell and serum-mediated host factors in the pathogenesis of mucormycosis.
A R Waldorf, N Ruderman, R D Diamond