Acremonium: Introduction, Morphology, Pathogenicity, Lab Diagnosis, Treatment, Prevention, and Keynotes


Acremonium is a genus of fungi that belongs to the family Hypocreaceae within the order Hypocreales. It is a diverse group of molds commonly found in soil, plant material, and decaying organic matter. They are ubiquitous in nature and can be found in various environments worldwide.

Characteristically, Acremonium species are filamentous fungi with hyaline or lightly pigmented hyphae. They reproduce through the formation of asexual spores known as conidia, which are usually unicellular and borne on specialized structures called conidiophores. These conidia serve as the primary means of dispersal, allowing the fungus to spread and colonize new substrates.

While many of them are saprophytic, meaning they feed on dead organic matter, some can also exhibit parasitic or pathogenic behavior. They can infect plants, animals, and humans, posing various health concerns. Certain species of this fungus have been associated with opportunistic infections in immunocompromised individuals, particularly those undergoing medical treatments or suffering from underlying conditions.

In addition to their ecological significance, some of them have also attracted attention from researchers due to their ability to produce biologically active compounds. These secondary metabolites can have pharmaceutical and industrial applications, such as the production of antibiotics or enzymes.

It’s important to note that while some Acremonium species have beneficial uses, others can be harmful and pose health risks. Therefore, proper identification and understanding of their characteristics are crucial in differentiating between the various species and assessing their impact on the environment and human health.


The morphology of this fungus is characterized by their filamentous structure, which is typical of most fungi. Here are some key features of the morphology:

Acremonium colony characteristics on Sabouraud dextrose agar of clinical specimen, ear discharge
Fig. Acremonium colony characteristics on Sabouraud dextrose agar of clinical specimen, ear discharge
  1. Hyphae: They have long, thin, and branching hyphae. These hyphae form the basic building blocks of the fungal colony and serve as the means of nutrient absorption and growth.
  2. Conidiophores: A significant morphological feature of Acremonium is the production of asexual spores called conidia. Conidiophores are specialized structures that bear the conidia at their tips. Conidiophores can be simple or branched, depending on the species.
  3. Conidia: Conidia are the asexual spores produced by Acremonium. They are typically unicellular, hyaline (translucent), and have a smooth or slightly rough surface. Conidia play a crucial role in the dispersal and reproduction of the fungus.
  4. Conidial chains: In many Acremonium species, the conidia are produced in chains at the tips of conidiophores. These chains of conidia can vary in length and are often an essential characteristic for species identification.
  5. Colony appearance: When grown on agar media, Acremonium colonies often appear cottony or fluffy with a white to light-colored appearance. The colony morphology can vary depending on the species and environmental conditions.
  6. Pigmentation: While many of them have hyaline (colorless) conidia and hyphae, some species may exhibit slight pigmentation, ranging from pale yellow to green or brown.
  7. Growth rate: The growth rate of thses fungi can be relatively slow compared to some other fungi, taking several days to weeks to form visible colonies on culture media.


They can display a range of behaviors in terms of pathogenicity, depending on the specific species and the host involved. While some of them are considered opportunistic pathogens, others are more commonly associated with saprophytic (feeding on dead organic matter) or endophytic (living within plant tissues) lifestyles. Here’s an overview of the pathogenicity of Acremonium:

  1. Opportunistic Infections: Certain Acremonium species can cause opportunistic infections in humans, especially in individuals with weakened immune systems or underlying health conditions. These infections often occur in immunocompromised patients, such as those undergoing chemotherapy, organ transplantation, or suffering from HIV/AIDS. The infections can manifest as localized or systemic infections, involving various tissues and organs.
  2. Cutaneous Infections: They have been known to cause cutaneous (skin) infections. These infections can lead to skin lesions, nodules, or abscesses, which may be challenging to treat due to the intrinsic resistance of some Acremonium species to antifungal drugs.
  3. Onychomycosis: Onychomycosis refers to fungal infections of the nails, and certain Acremonium species have been implicated in causing this condition in humans.
  4. Corneal Infections: They have been associated with rare cases of fungal keratitis, an infection of the cornea of the eye. Fungal keratitis can be challenging to manage and may lead to visual impairment if not promptly treated.
  5. Plant Pathogens: Some of them are plant pathogens and can cause diseases in various crops and ornamental plants. These fungal infections can result in reduced plant growth, wilting, and even death of the host plant.
  6. Mycotoxin Production: Some species are capable of producing mycotoxins, which are toxic secondary metabolites that can be harmful to humans and animals. Mycotoxins produced by certain species have been associated with adverse health effects.

Lab Diagnosis

The laboratory diagnosis of Acremonium infections typically involves a combination of direct microscopic examination, culture, and sometimes molecular techniques. Here’s an overview of the steps involved in diagnosing such infections in a clinical or environmental setting:

  1. Clinical Evaluation: The first step is a thorough clinical evaluation of the patient, including a detailed medical history and examination of any suspicious lesions or symptoms. This information helps the healthcare provider determine the likelihood of a fungal infection and the appropriate diagnostic approach.
  2. Direct Microscopic Examination: In suspected cases of cutaneous or nail infections, a sample (e.g., skin scraping, nail clipping) is collected for direct microscopic examination. The sample is usually stained with special fungal stains (e.g., potassium hydroxide or calcofluor white) to visualize the fungal elements under a microscope. They can be identified based on the characteristic appearance of their hyphae and conidia.
  3. Fungal Culture: Fungal culture is a crucial step in diagnosing Acremonium infections. The clinical sample (e.g., skin biopsy, nail clipping, or tissue specimen) is inoculated onto appropriate culture media, such as Sabouraud dextrose agar or potato dextrose agar. The cultures are then incubated at appropriate temperatures (usually 25-30°C) for several days to weeks, depending on the growth rate of the specific species. Acremonium colonies typically appear white to light-colored, fluffy, and cottony.
  4. Species Identification: Once the Acremonium colonies have grown on the culture media, they are subjected to further examination for species identification. This may involve morphological assessment, such as observing the conidiophores and conidia, and comparing them to reference images or descriptions of known Acremonium species. Molecular techniques, such as DNA sequencing, may also be employed to accurately identify the species, as some Acremonium species can be challenging to differentiate based solely on morphology.
  5. Antifungal Susceptibility Testing: In cases of clinical significance or resistance to conventional antifungal therapies, antifungal susceptibility testing may be performed to determine the most appropriate antifungal treatment.
Conidia, hyphae, and conidiophores of Acremonium species in LPCB tease mount of culture microscopy
Fig. Conidia, hyphae, and conidiophores of Acremonium species in LPCB tease mount of culture microscopy


The treatment of theses infections can be challenging due to the limited susceptibility of some Acremonium species to conventional antifungal agents. The choice of treatment depends on several factors, including the severity of the infection, the site of infection, the immune status of the patient, and the identified species of Acremonium. In general, Acremonium infections in immunocompetent individuals may not require treatment, as the infections can often resolve spontaneously or remain localized without causing significant harm.

For more severe or invasive Acremonium infections, treatment options may include:

  1. Antifungal Medications: Azoles, such as voriconazole and itraconazole, are often considered as first-line antifungal agents for treating Acremonium infections. However, susceptibility testing should be performed whenever possible to ensure the appropriate choice of antifungal therapy.
  2. Combination Therapy: In some cases, combination therapy with multiple antifungal agents may be considered, especially if the infection is resistant to single-agent treatment or if the causative Acremonium species exhibits resistance to standard antifungal drugs.
  3. Surgical Intervention: Surgical debridement or excision of infected tissues may be necessary in cases of localized Acremonium infections or to reduce the fungal burden in combination with antifungal therapy.
  4. Supportive Care: Supportive measures, such as wound care and pain management, may be implemented to help improve patient comfort and overall healing.

It’s essential to closely monitor the patient’s response to treatment and adjust therapy as needed based on the clinical and laboratory findings. Additionally, immunocompromised patients may require more aggressive and prolonged antifungal therapy to effectively manage Acremonium infections.

Since some Acremonium species have intrinsic resistance to certain antifungal drugs, susceptibility testing is vital for guiding treatment decisions. Identifying the specific Acremonium species through proper laboratory diagnosis is crucial to determining the most appropriate antifungal therapy.


Preventing Acremonium infections involves taking specific measures to minimize exposure to the fungi and reducing the risk of infection. Here are some preventive strategies:

  1. Infection Control Practices: In healthcare settings, strict infection control measures should be followed to prevent the transmission of Acremonium and other opportunistic fungal infections. This includes regular hand hygiene, proper disinfection of medical equipment, and the use of personal protective equipment by healthcare personnel.
  2. Environmental Hygiene: Regular cleaning and disinfection of the environment, particularly in areas where immunocompromised patients reside or receive medical care, can help reduce the presence of Acremonium and other potential pathogens.
  3. Immune System Support: Maintaining a healthy immune system is essential for preventing opportunistic infections. For individuals with weakened immune systems, it’s crucial to follow their healthcare provider’s recommendations regarding immune system support, which may include proper nutrition, vaccinations, and avoiding exposure to potential sources of infection.
  4. Avoiding Contaminated Sources: Since Acremonium is commonly found in soil, decaying organic matter, and plant material, it’s essential to minimize contact with potentially contaminated sources, especially for individuals with compromised immune systems.
  5. Proper Wound Care: Prompt and proper care of wounds can help prevent secondary fungal infections, including those caused by Acremonium. Clean and dress wounds appropriately, and seek medical attention for any signs of infection.
  6. Fungal Footwear Hygiene: To prevent onychomycosis (fungal nail infections), individuals should practice good foot hygiene, keep their feet dry, and avoid walking barefoot in public areas like locker rooms or swimming pools.
  7. Plant Health Management: For agricultural settings, proper plant health management practices can help reduce the risk of Acremonium and other fungal plant pathogens. This includes monitoring for plant diseases, practicing crop rotation, and ensuring appropriate irrigation and drainage.
  8. Avoiding Contaminated Building Materials: In construction or renovation projects, avoiding the use of contaminated building materials can help prevent potential indoor fungal growth, including Acremonium.
  9. Monitoring Indoor Air Quality: Regularly monitoring indoor air quality in buildings and homes can help identify potential sources of fungal contamination and facilitate timely remediation.
  10. Early Diagnosis and Treatment: Early diagnosis and appropriate treatment of fungal infections can help prevent their spread and reduce the risk of complications, especially in immunocompromised individuals.


Keynotes of Acremonium:

  1. Genus of Fungi: Acremonium is a genus of fungi that belongs to the family Hypocreaceae within the order Hypocreales.
  2. Ubiquitous in Nature: They are widespread in nature and can be found in various environments, including soil, decaying organic matter, and plants.
  3. Filamentous Hyphal Structure: They have filamentous hyphae that form the basic structure of the fungal colony.
  4. Asexual Reproduction: Acremonium reproduces asexually through the production of conidia, which are unicellular spores borne on specialized structures called conidiophores.
  5. Conidial Chains: Conidia are produced in chains at the tips of conidiophores in many Acremonium species.
  6. Morphological Variation: The appearance of Acremonium colonies can vary, typically appearing as white to light-colored, fluffy, and cottony on culture media.
  7. Opportunistic Pathogens: Some Acremonium species can cause opportunistic infections in immunocompromised individuals, leading to skin infections, nail infections (onychomycosis), and corneal infections.
  8. Plant Pathogens: Certain Acremonium species are plant pathogens and can cause diseases in crops and ornamental plants.
  9. Mycotoxin Production: Some Acremonium species can produce mycotoxins, which are toxic secondary metabolites with potential health implications.
  10. Challenging Treatment: Acremonium infections can be challenging to treat due to limited susceptibility to antifungal drugs in some species. Accurate identification and susceptibility testing are crucial for appropriate treatment.
  11. Environmental and Clinical Significance: Acremonium has both environmental and clinical significance, with potential roles in ecosystem functioning and human health.
  12. Prevention Importance: Preventive measures, including infection control practices, proper hygiene, and immune system support, are essential in minimizing the risk of Acremonium infections.

Further Readings

  1. “Acremonium species: a review of the etiological agents of emerging hyalohyphomycosis” by Guarro, J., & Gené, J. (2016) – This review article provides comprehensive information on the clinical significance, epidemiology, pathogenicity, and treatment of Acremonium species causing hyalohyphomycosis.
  2. “Acremonium kiliense infection in immunocompromised patients: Report of cases and review” by Alvarez-Moreno, C., Lavergne, R. A., & Huerter, C. J. (2014) – This article reports on cases of Acremonium kiliense infections in immunocompromised patients and provides a review of relevant literature.
  3. “Acremonium strictum: an Emerging Opportunistic Agent of Onychomycosis” by Arenas, R., & Moreno-Coutiño, G. (2015) – This study highlights Acremonium strictum as an emerging agent of onychomycosis and discusses its diagnosis and management.
  4. “Bioprospecting of Acremonium Species as a Potential Source of New Biologically Active Compounds” by Barbieri, E., Bertelli, C., & Pini, G. (2018) – This article explores the bioprospecting potential of Acremonium species, focusing on the production of biologically active compounds with pharmaceutical and industrial applications.
  5. “Acremonium in Crop Pathosystems” by White, J. F., Sánchez-Rodríguez, A. R., & Redman, R. S. (2018) – This chapter from the book “Microbial Endophytes: Functional Biology and Applications” discusses the role of Acremonium as an endophytic fungus in various crop pathosystems.
  6. “Fungal Keratitis Caused by Acremonium Species” by Al-Hatmi, A. M., Bonifaz, A., de Hoog, G. S., & Meis, J. F. (2015) – This case report highlights fungal keratitis caused by Acremonium species and discusses the challenges in diagnosis and management.
  7. “Emerging fungal pathogens: evolving challenges to immunocompromised patients for the twenty-first century” by Kontoyiannis, D. P., & Lewis, R. E. (2011) – While not solely focused on Acremonium, this review article discusses the challenges posed by emerging fungal pathogens, including Acremonium species, to immunocompromised patients.

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