Upsurge of Black Fungus Darkens Covid Concerns

WHO classifies India’s highly contagious mutant variant to be responsible for the second wave

Upsurge of Black Fungus Darkens Covid Concerns
Upsurge of Black Fungus Darkens Covid Concerns
Shritama Saha - 11 May 2021

India recorded 3,29,942 new infections on May 11 which is the lowest in past 14 days. The death toll climbed to 2,49,992 with 3,876 fresh fatalities with 37,15,221 active cases. World Health Organization has reported that B.1.617, a triple-mutant variant discovered in India in October 2020, is massively contributing to the highly catastrophic spread and is of “global concern”.

To add to this, hospitals are recording a notable spike in cases of mucormycosis (black fungus) in Covid patients. Blackening or discoloration around the nose, sinus pain or nasal blockage on one side of the face, chest pain, swelling or numbness, toothache, and loosening of teeth, blurred or double vision, breathing problems, one-sided headache, and coughing blood are some of the early symptoms of this fatal but otherwise uncommon infection. Doctors treating Covid patients, diabetics, and those with weakened immune systems should look for these early signs, according to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). Unmanaged or uncontrolled diabetes is one of the primary reasons for this infection. Steroids like dexamethasone, which are used to treat extreme COVID-19, can worsen diabetes. India is yet to release national data on mucormycosis but cases have been discovered in Maharashtra, Gujarat, and Delhi. Scarcity of beds and ICUs, burnt-out health workers, lack of oxygen, and crippling medical resources are exacerbating the issue.

"There have been cases reported in several other countries - including the UK, U.S., France, Austria, Brazil, and Mexico, but the volume is much bigger in India," said David Denning of Britain's Manchester University and an expert at the Global Action Fund for Fungal Infections (GAFFI) charity. “And one of the reasons is lots and lots of diabetes, and lots of poorly controlled diabetes.”, he added.

V. K. Paul, Niti Aayog Member (Health) on Friday said that mucormycosis, a fungal infection, is being found in Covid-19 patients and largely in cases of those who are diabetic.

P Suresh, Head of Opthalmology said that Fortis Hospital, Mumbai, treated a minimum of ten Covid patients with mucormycosis in the past two weeks which is a clear double in comparison to the pre-pandemic years. He further added that the majority of them were diabetic or were on immunosuppressive medications and some of them passed away while some lost their eyesight.

To combat this growing fungal disease, former Union Minister Suresh Prabhu on Tuesday urged Sadananda Gowda, Minister of Chemicals and Fertilizers, to control the prices and supply of medicines used in the treatment of Mucormycosis, including Amphotercin, to avoid creating an artificial shortage.