Black fungus complication adds to India’s Covid woes; all you need to know | India News

NEW DELHI: The government has told doctors to look out for signs of mucormycosis or ‘black fungus’ in Covid-19 patients as hospitals report a rise in cases of the rare but potentially fatal infection.
The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) last week had said that doctors treating Covid-19 patients, diabetics and those with compromised immune systems should watch for early symptoms including sinus pain or nasal blockage on one side of the face, one-sided headache, swelling or numbness, toothache and loosening of teeth.
Here’s what you need to know about the Black fungus and its complications:
What is mucormycosis or black fungus
According to the Union health ministry, mucormycosis or black fungus is a complication caused by a fungal infection.

People catch mucormycosis by coming in contact with the fungal spores in the environment.
It can also develop on the skin after the fungus enters the skin through a cut, scrape, burn, or other type of skin trauma.

Black fungus and death rate
Mucormycosis has a very high fatality rate and this has increased the woes of the health department which has deployed all its resources to combat Covid-19.
Covid-19 kills one or two per cent of the people infected, while black fungus has a mortality rate of 75 per cent, according to Dr Suresh Singh Naruka, Senior Consultant, ENT, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals.
Mucormycosis was not a notified disease like malaria and hence its cases were not mapped and a database was not prepared, the official said.
Drugs used in the treatment of mucormycosis have severe side-effects, and can lead to kidney issues, neurological dysfunction and stroke, the doctor said.
Who has more risk to black fungus
The health ministry said, the disease is being detected among patients who are recovering or have recovered from Covid-19. Moreover, anyone who is diabetic and whose immune system is not functioning well needs to be on the guard against this.
The treatment
The treatment requires multidisciplinary expertise because the fungal infection spreads through the nose, eyes and can reach the brain.
Treatment involves surgically removing all dead and infected tissue. In some patients, this may result in loss of upper jaw or sometimes even the eye.
Cure may also involve a 4-6 weeks course of intravenous anti-fungal therapy. Since it affects various parts of the body, treatment requires a team of microbiologists, internal medicine specialists, intensivist neurologists, ENT specialists, ophthalmologists, dentists, surgeons and others.
Controlling diabetes is one of the foremost prevention methods suggested by ICMR. Hence, Covid-19 patients who are diabetic need to take utmost care.
Self-medication and over-dosage of steroids can result in fatal events and hence doctor’s prescription should be strictly followed.
Medicine used to treat black fungus cases
Amphotericin B Liposomal is being used for the treatment of the fungal infection.
Each infected patient would require 60 vials of the injection and each would cost about Rs 5,000-6,000.
States classify black fungus as an epidemic disease
Till now, cases of black fungus have been reported in various parts of the country including Karnataka, Uttarakhand, Telangana, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Haryana and Bihar.
Among them, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Haryana have classified black fungus as an epidemic disease.
Shortage of medicines to treat black fungus
The Delhi High Court on Wednesday asked the Centre and Delhi Government to apprise on the issue of shortage of medicine used for treating black fungus.
The high court said the government will have to elaborate what is the bottleneck and how the medicine can suddenly be in short supply when it is locally manufactured.
The issue of shortage of medicine Amphotericin B, for treating Mucormycosis (black fungus) was raised by advocate Rakesh Malhotra who also referred to a recent order passed by the Delhi government concerning requisitioning of the drug for the ailment.
What adds to spread mucormycosis in Covid patients
Though most doctors feel mucormycosis was triggered by unregulated use of medicines on Covid patients without controlling blood sugar level, several others felt that post-Covid unhygienic lifestyle at home too paved the way for the black fungus to afflict immunosuppressed health systems.
Dr Mohan Nerkar, the director of Seven Star Hospital, said diabetic and other immunosuppressed patients are highly prone to fungal infections like mucormycosis.
“Many Covid patients had started taking medicines through self-treatment at homes with no monitoring or control of sugar. Some were also being advised by unqualified doctors, with medicines given without checking parameters, which is harmful. Some also resorted to home treatment remedies as per forwards on social media,” said Dr Nerkar.
“Many people also used oxygen cylinders at home with tap water in the flow meters, which may also have led to fungal infections like mucormycosis. Also, unhygienic lifestyle of living, and unclean ambience can also lead to health complications and attract diseases,” he said.
WHO classifies Indian variant as one of global concern
The World Health Organization had said that the B.1.617 coronavirus variant first identified in India last year was being classified as a variant of global concern, with some preliminary studies showing that it spreads more easily.
One bright spot is that vaccines may be protective.
White House chief medical adviser Anthony Fauci said that preliminary evidence from lab studies suggest Covaxin, a vaccine developed in India, appears capable of neutralizing the variant.
The coronavirus has raised its ‘ugly head’ once again and with the pandemic raging with much greater intensity, it is evident that the healthcare infrastructure is at the stage of imminent collapse.
(With inputs from agencies)

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