Black fungus, or mucormycosis, is a type of fungal infection that is typically very rare. But almost 9000 recovering COVID patients in India have contracted this devastating disease and more than 300 people have died from it in the past few months alone.
Black fungus in other countries
Now, India is no longer the only country struggling with this post-COVID complication. Several other countries have been reporting black fungus cases as well, including Russia, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Uruguay, and Chile.
In Chile, health officials have been seeing a rapid increase in the number of COVID patients getting this organ-rotting disease. The Chilean Society of Infectology said:
Cases of fungal infections have been detected since the start of the pandemic but the frequency has increased and serious cases have risen.
Last month, Russia also reported that a few COVID patients had contracted mucormycosis, but authorities have said that the situation is under control. Clinical mycology expert, Nikolai Klimko told Russian newspaper Izvestia:
As far as I know, there have only been isolated cases of mucormycosis in patients with Covid-19.
The reason behind the surge
Unlike coronavirus, black fungus did not start in India and spread to other countries. This infection has been breaking out on its own because of COVID treatments.
Patients who have suffered with severe forms of COVID are normally treated with steroids. And while the drug is a life-saving treatment, it can also drastically affect the body’s immune system, by reducing immunity and increasing blood sugar levels. This immunocompromised physical state is a breeding ground for fungal infections because the body is no longer able to fight against germs like mucormycetes—the group of moulds that are associated with black fungus—which are found everywhere.
As of now, the condition can be treated with an anti-fungal intravenous injection, but some patients in India have had to undergo surgery to stop the infection from spreading to other parts of their body. Some doctors have even had to take drastic measures like removing an eye to stop the fungus from reaching the brain.