Medical staff in PSA caring for a person at the Covid-19 Temporary Care Center attached to LNJP Hospital at Shehnai Banquet Hall on April 23, 2021 in New Delhi, India.
Raj K Raj | Hindustan Times | Getty Images
As India grapples with a deadly second wave of coronavirus, authorities have warned of a rare fungal infection that can be maimed or even fatal if not cared for.
Multiple media reports say doctors in the country are reporting cases of mucormycosis, informally known as “black fungus,” in the recovery or recovery of Covid-19 patients in states like Maharashtra and Gujarat, as well as Delhi.
What is it?
Mucormycosis is a “serious but rare fungal infection caused by a group of molds called mucormycetes,” according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It most commonly affects the sinuses or lungs after inhaling fungal spores from the air, but it can also appear after an injury to the skin or, in some cases, affect the brain, according to the CDC.
The infection is more common in people who have underlying health problems or are taking medications that affect their body’s ability to fight germs. Researchers studying previous murcormyscosis infections in India found that diabetes was the most common underlying disease, occurring in 54% to 76% of cases.
While the infection is treatable, the CDC estimates a death rate of around 50%, but this varies depending on the underlying conditions, the type of fungus, and the area of the body affected.
However, the Indian State Council for Medical Research (ICMR) said that patients who have been in intensive care units for long periods of time or are immunocompromised due to steroids may also be at risk.
Many severe Covid-19 patients in India are treated with corticosteroids such as dexamethasone, an anti-inflammatory drug that also decreases the immune system’s ability to fight infections and other diseases to relieve symptoms and make them more susceptible.
A government official reportedly said last week that there is “no major outbreak” of the fungal infection in India.
What are the symptoms?
The ICMR issued a notice over the weekend urging doctors and patients to look out for early symptoms.
These include nasal congestion and discharge, unilateral facial pain, numbness or swelling, toothache and loosened teeth, blurred or double vision, redness around the eyes, fever, difficulty breathing and chest pain.
Treatment options include antifungal therapy, Reducing or stopping steroids and other drugs that suppress the immune system, while more severe cases, according to the ICMR, may require surgery to remove all necrotic tissues from the body.
If left untreated for too long, permanent damage such as vision loss and death can result.
Mucormycosis was already present in India before the Covid-19 pandemic began last year. Official data are scarce due to the lack of population-based studies, but some researchers estimate that the prevalence of mucormycosis in the country is about 70 times higher than in the rest of the world.