The rapid increase in mucormycosis (also known as “black fungus”) cases has brought greater challenges to India’s medical system as it responds to a large number of second wave of COVID-19 infections.
Read the information about myxomycosis, the opinions of health experts, and the scientific evidence behind the recent increase in cases.
What is mucormycosis?
Mucormycosis is a fungal infection that can cause black or discoloration of the nose, blurred or double vision, chest pain, difficulty breathing, and coughing.
Mucormycosis is caused by exposure to slime mold, which is usually found in soil, air, and even human noses and mucus.
It spreads through the respiratory tract and erode facial structures. Sometimes, the doctor will have to surgically remove the infected eye to prevent the infection from reaching the brain.
The disease is closely related to diabetes and diseases that damage the immune system. Experts say that excessive use of drugs that suppress the immune system during the COVID-19 pandemic may cause the disease to surge.
According to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the mortality rate of mucormycosis is 54%, depending on the patient’s condition and affected body parts.
Last Saturday, Federal Minister of Chemistry and Fertilizer Sadananda Gowda said that nearly 9,000 cases have been reported in India in recent weeks, most of which have contracted COVID-19 or have recovered from the disease. Normally, the country records less than 20 cases each year.
The infection caused a shortage of amphotericin B, the drug used to treat the disease. Gowda did not share the death toll, but local media said more than 250 people died from the disease.
Is it contagious?
The disease is not contagious, which means it cannot be spread through contact between humans and animals.
But it does spread from the fungal spores in the air or the environment, and it is almost unavoidable.
K Bhujang Shetty, head of the Narayana Nethralaya Eye Hospital, said: “Bacteria and fungi are already in our bodies, but they are still controlled by the human immune system.”
“When the immune system declines due to cancer treatment, diabetes or steroid use, these organisms have the upper hand and they reproduce,” Shetty said.
Is it spread through unsterilized cylinders or ventilators?
It’s hard to tell.
Experts say that unsanitary conditions may increase the risk of infection.
Nishant Kumar, an ophthalmologist at Hinduja Hospital in Mumbai, said: “There are many contaminants in the pipelines for oxygen, the cylinders that are in use, and the humidifiers that have been used.”
“If you are immunosuppressed and use these pipes and oxygen for a long time, then these infections will have more chances to enter.”
But opinions are divided on this point.
“Even before April, hospitals were dirty. We need to conduct epidemiological studies to assess why these cases are still increasing.” Senior doctor and senior doctor at the Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences in Maharashtra Researcher SP Kalantri said.
Why is mucormycosis and not other fungal infections?
COVID-19 is associated with a wide range of secondary bacterial and fungal infections, but experts say that the second wave of COVID-19 in India has created an ideal environment for mucormycosis.
The researchers wrote in the journal “Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome: Clinical Research and Review” that hypoxia, diabetes, high iron levels, immunosuppression, and several other factors, including long-term hospitalization in mechanical ventilators, create constrictive mucormycosis. An ideal environment.
“This is a new challenge, and the situation looks bleak.” said Ambrish Mithal, chairman and head of the endocrinology and diabetes department of Max Healthcare, a chain of private hospitals in India.
“I used to have only a few cases a year before, but the current infection rate is frightening.”