'Black fungus,' the deadly post-COVID complication for India's recovered patients

Cases of mucormycosis, a rare fungal infection, have been on the rise in India.

Post-COVID Complication
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Post-COVID Complication

Hospitals across India have been reporting cases of recovered COVID patients contracting a rare fungal infection called mucormycosis, or black fungus. This infection has a mortality rate of 50% and the increasing number of cases have begun to worry medical experts in the country.

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What is Mucormycosis?

Mucormycosis is an incredibly rare, but dangerous fungal infection that affects the sinuses, the brain and the lungs. The infection develops when one comes into contact with a group of moulds called mucormycetes. This particular fungus is found in soil, plants, manure, and decaying fruits and vegetables.

Given that these fungal spores are everywhere, including the mucus of healthy people, our bodies are used to protecting us against these germs. However, cases of black fungus have been rising rapidly in India amongst recovering COVID patients because of the use of steroids during treatment.

Post-COVID complication

Steroids have proven to be a critical treatmentfor those battling with severe forms of COVID, but in the process the drug also reduces immunity and increases blood sugar levels—making it harder to fight against fungal spores like mucormycetes.

This combination is especially deadly for patients who have diabetes and for those who are already immunocompromised. Dr. Akshay Nair, an eye surgeon in Mumbai, has seen 40 patients with this infection so far, and a majority of them were diabetic. He told BBC:

Diabetes lowers the body's immune defences, coronavirus exacerbates it, and then steroids which help fight Covid-19 act like fuel to the fire.

In many cases, doctors have had to remove jaw bones, noses, and eyes to stop the infection from spreading to the brain. Currently, the only treatment available is an anti-fungal intravenous injection. The jab costs around £33, and needs to be administered once every day for up to eight weeks.

Before the pandemic, doctors only received a handful of patients every year with this deadly disease. But now, hospitals have been reporting multiple cases of black fungus every single day.

Dr. Prashant Rahate, chairman of Seven Star Hospital in Nagpur told The Telegraph:

Mucormycosis is now playing absolute havoc. We are seeing four to five new patients every day and have around 35 patients still admitted.
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