‘Black Fungus’ Infections Maiming India’s COVID-19 Patients

This deadly “black fungus” affects in the body of those recovering from Covid-19 – called “black fungus” or scientific name mucormycosis. When the devastating second wave of Covid-19 infection scares the lives of many people in India, doctors alert people about a rare but dangerous fungal infection. 

Patients recovering from the coronavirus or on the way to recovery are suffering from the disease “black fungus”. This infection affects the nose, eye and sometimes the brain, BBC reports.

What kind of infection is mucormycosis?

Mucormycosis is a very rare infection. The infection occurs when exposed to a fungus called mucor mould. This fungus is usually found in soil, plants, manure and decaying fruits and vegetables.

“It is ubiquitous and found in soil and air and even in the nose and mucus of healthy people,” says Dr. Akshay Nair, a Mumbai-based eye surgeon, told BBC.

This fungus affects the sinuses, brain and lungs. People with diabetes, cancer or HIV/AIDS, or diseases that have very low immunity, have the highest risk of infection from these mucor.

Doctors say the risk of death from mucormycosis is 50%. They think the infection can start with the use of steroids. Covid-19 is now being treated with steroids to save their lives in the treatment of severely affected people.

Steroids help in reducing inflammation of the lungs in people with Covid-19. When the body’s immune system becomes overactive while fighting Coronavirus, doctors also use steroids to treat Indian coronavirus variant patients to prevent damage to various organs of the body.

But the use of these steroids also reduces normal immunity. In diabetic patients, it even increases blood sugar levels. It is believed that mucormycosis infection is caused by the body’s own immunity loss.

Who is at a higher risk of infection?

Dr. Nair works in three hospitals in Mumbai. Mumbai is one of the cities in India that have been severely devastated by the second wave of Coronavirus. He says he has already treated about 40 patients suffering from this fungus infection in April alone.

Most of them were diabetic who recovered at home after Covid-19 infection. Eleven of them had to have their eyes surgically thrown away.

Only 6 of his fellow doctors reported the infection found in 58 patients in Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Delhi and Pune. The report came in just three months from December to February. Most of them suffered from fungal infections within 12 to 15 days of the disease recovery. Total 24 cases of this fungal infection have been reported in Mumbai’s busy Sion Hospital in the last two months. 

Dr. Raghuraj Hegde presents a similar picture. In the last two weeks, he has received 19 patients with mucormycosis. Most of them are young. “Some were so sick that we couldn’t even operate on them,” he told BBC.

According to the doctors, they are very surprised by the fungal infection in the second wave of the Coronavirus and the spread of it so quickly. The fungal infection was relatively low during the first wave of Covid-19 last year.

Symptoms of black fungus

Symptoms that usually develop in patients infected with black fungus include:

  • Nasal closure and bleeding from the nose
  • Pain in the eyes and swelling of the eyes
  • Dangling eyelids
  • Blurred vision in the eyes, which then leads to loss of vision
  • Black spots around the nose skin
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