Mucormycosis- The Black Fungus

Even as we all are giving our best to fight off and cope up with COVID-19, there is another threat being posed by a fungus, which we must know and fight against! Even as a deadly second wave of Covid-19 ravages India, doctors are now reporting to witness a rash of cases involving a rare […]

Even as we all are giving our best to fight off and cope up with COVID-19, there is another threat being posed by a fungus, which we must know and fight against! Even as a deadly second wave of Covid-19 ravages India, doctors are now reporting to witness a rash of cases involving a rare infection – also called the “black fungus” – among recovering and recovered Covid-19 patients.

What is Mucormycosis?

Mucormycosis is a very rare fungal infection. It is caused due to exposure to mucor mold that is commonly found in soil, manure, plants, decaying fruits, and vegetables. It is ubiquitous. It can be found in soil and plants and even in the nasal passage and nose mucus of a perfectly healthy person. A black fungal outbreak was recently reported in India around May 2021. As of now, there are more than 30,000 cases of Mucormycosis or black fungus reported from 29 states and 9 UTs, with a majority of the cases being turning up from patients with a history of COVID-19 and diabetes. Around 300 patients succumbed to black fungus even after miraculously and bravely recovering from coronavirus. The disease is usually being detected in patients who are recovering or post their recovery period from COVID-19. Moreover, people who are diabetic and a weak immune system due to COVID-19 should be guarded against it.

HOW IS IT RELATED TO COVID-19?

Doctors believe Mucormycosis, which has an overall mortality rate of 50%, maybe being triggered by the use of steroids, life-saving therapy for severely ill COVID-19 patients. The disease is caused by a set of fungal mold called mucormycetes sitting on decaying fruits and vegetables or soil and plants. It commonly enters into our bodies through skin traumas like cuts, scrapes, burns, or even needle-holes caused due to injections. It is being believed that steroids being injected into the lungs of Covid-19 patients can reduce inflammation and appear to aid to stop some of the damage that can be caused when the patients’ body’s immune system goes into overdrive to fight off against coronavirus. Ironically, steroids like dexamethasone also bring down immunity and increase blood sugar levels in both diabetics and non-diabetic Covid-19 patients. In normal situations, our immune system is well enough to cast away and fight against such fungal infection. However, Covid-19 can be a great threat to one’s immunity system. It’s thought that this drip in the immunity levels triggers these cases of black fungus.

WHAT ARE THE USUAL SYMPTOMS?

Mucormycosis or black fungus begins manifesting as a skin infection in the air pockets and air cavities located behind and inside the nose, forehead, eyes, and cheekbones. It can spread to the brain and lungs, resulting in loss of eyesight, blackening of the nose, chest pain, brain paralysis, and breathing problems.

HOW IS IT BEING HANDLED?

Cure involves sectioning out all dead and infected tissue in terms of late detection of the disease. In some patients, this may result in surgical removal of the upper jaw or even the eyes. The medication may also involve a one-month course of intravenous anti-fungal treatment. Monitoring diabetes is one of the foremost prevention methods suggested by medical institutions. Hence, COVID-19 patients who are diabetic need to pay utmost attention. Self-medication and over-dosage of steroids can result in fatal events, and hence doctor’s prescription should be strictly followed. For patients on oxygen therapy, it should be ensured that the water in the humidifier is clean and is refilled regularly. Patients should keep up with proper hygiene by regularly cleaning their hands and bodies. Prior detection of the disease can lead to easy and successful treatment of the fungal infection. Be on guard even post-Covid-19 recovery!