By Manasvi Meka
Published 11:35 PM EST, Wed July 14, 2021
What is it?
The black fungus infection of India, also known as “mucormycosis,” is a very rare infection. It isn’t contagious and doesn’t spread from one person to another. It is caused by exposure to “mucor” that
is found in soil, plants, manure, and decaying fruits or vegetables. It affects the sinuses in the brain and causes severe damage in immunocompromised and diabetic patients. Diabetes not only increases a person’s risk for COVID-19 but can also provide conditions in which fungal infection can occur. Mucormycosis begins as a skin infection, but it later progresses to the eyes, lungs, jaws, face, and even to the brain. Dr. Hemant Thacker explains that “One of the ways mucormycosis travels is by invading the blood vessels.” Mucormycosis also blocks blood flow which kills infected tissue, once it dies or becomes necrotic, the tissue has a black discoloration. Thus the term “black fungus” has spread.
Fatality Rates + Process of Attack
Doctors currently believe that the mortality rate of the black fungus is 50%, which may be triggered by the steroids used to treat COVID-19. While steroids help to fight against COVID-19, they also happen to make the body less immune and spike up blood sugar levels. For example, dexamethasone, a drug used to treat COVID-19 suppresses the immunity of an individual, providing a greater leeway for the fungal infection to prevail. Since there is a drop in immunity when a body gets attacked by COVID-19, patients are becoming far more susceptible to this deadly disease. Dr. VP Pandey, head of the hospital at Maharaja Yeshwantrao Hospital, says that “The black fungus infection has now become more challenging than Covid-19. If patients are not treated in time and properly, then the mortality rate can go up to 94%. The cost of treatment is expensive, and the drugs are in short supply.”
Symptoms + Treatment
Dr. Anita Mathew, an Infectious disease specialist from Fortis Hospital explains that some of the common symptoms of mucormycosis include sinusitis (nasal blockage or congestion), pain on the cheekbone, facial pain, numbness or swelling, black discoloration over the nose, loosening of teeth (jaw involvement), blurred or double vision with pain, chest pain, or severe respiratory problems. Mucormycosis is treated with anti-fungal medicines, such as Amphotericin B, taken intravenously. Demand for Amphotericin B is rising continuously every day in India. Other medications like posaconazole or isavuconazole (anti-fungal medicines) can also be taken either intravenously or by mouth. Another potential treatment is to have surgery in order to remove the necrotic tissue. The disease itself is pretty rare and, according to the San Francisco Bay Area, during 1992-1993, the number of mucormycosis cases was around 1.7 cases per 1 million people. However, due to the prevalence of COVID in India, the risk of getting diagnosed with this disease is on the rise. Even though mucormycosis is a rare disease, please do not disregard it as it could have serious consequences. Additionally, many doctors believe that the most effective way to combat mucormycosis is to wear a mask while venturing out especially to gardens or dusty areas (where chances of inhaling mucor are on the rise). Also, diabetic and immunocompromised individuals should take efforts to control glucose levels. And most importantly, if ANY of the symptoms written above persist, please call your local doctor immediately to get help.
Manasvi Meka, Youth Medical Journal 2021
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