Black fungus spectre amid Covid rampage in India: All you need to know about this new menace

Mucormycosis, a rare infection also known as black fungus disease, is normally caused after exposure to mucor mould commonly found in soil, plants, manure and decaying fruits and vegetables.

Published: 13th May 2021 02:36 AM  |   Last Updated: 13th May 2021 07:35 AM   |  A+A-

A woman reacts as a health worker tries to take her swab sample to test for COVID-19 in Jammu. (Photo | AP)

By Express News Service

NEW DELHI:  An alarming rise in the deadly fungal disease mucormycosis, in patients who have recovered from Covid-19 in several states, has prompted the Centre to take steps for ramping up the production of amphotericinB, an injectable medicine used to treat the condition.

Mucormycosis, a rare infection also known as black fungus disease, is normally caused after exposure to mucor mould commonly found in soil, plants, manure and decaying fruits and vegetables, but is being reported in people following recovery from Covid-19.

The condition, with an overall mortality rate of over 50%, affects the sinuses, the brain, eyes and the lungs and can be life-threatening in diabetic or severely immunocompromised individuals, such as cancer patients or people with HIV.

A large number of people, who have recovered from Covid-19 in India are now reporting this disease, as it gets triggered by the use of steroids, a life-saving treatment for severe and critically ill Covid-19 patients, given to suppress immune response against the virus.

Doctors say mucormycosis primarily affects those with history of diabetes or immunocompromised individuals. Of late, there has been a worrying rise in the number of cases.

The Centre on Tuesday allocated amphotericinB among states based on supplies available till the end of this month.

The government also said that talks are on with manufacturers of the drug to raise its availability.

States have also been urged to put in place a mechanism for equitable distribution of supplies between government and private hospitals.

States already grappling with the challenge posed by Covid-19, on the other hand, are on a brink with the rising instances of mucormycosis cases.

In Jharkhand, for instance, over 35 cases have emerged so far, with a 38-year-old undergoing a procedure to remove one of his eyes.

This patient was the first recorded case of the disease in the state, said Dr Anindya Anuradha at Medica Hospital in Ranchi.

There are four others with severe damage to their eyes due to the disease.

At PGI, Chandigarh, a rise of 35% in cases of mucormycosis has been noted in one year.

Doctors said that a total of 61 cases of the disease have been seen at the tertiary care centre since April, 2020, 59 of whom had surgeries for partial or full removal of their eyes, and those without Covid-19 recovered faster. Annually, around 45 such cases used to come before the pandemic, said PGI sources.

At least 50 cases of this deadly disease have also been reported in Madhya Pradesh, according to CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan.

“We’re developing a detailed protocol, which will include its causes, symptoms and treatment strategy. Since the injections used to treat this infection are costly, the government will ensure free treatment of economically weak patients of the infection at our government hospitals,” Chouhan said in Bhopal.

Sources said that black fungus cases have mostly been reported among post Covid patients in Indore, Bhopal and Jabalpur. Keeping in mind the rising cases, dedicated beds have been set up in Jabalpur and Bhopal in the first phase.

In Mumbai, Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope said they are getting more mucormycosis cases, mostly in diabetic patients who have recovered from Covid-19. In Maharashtra, there are over 2000 mucormycosis patients and eight deaths are reported due to this fungal infection.

(Sumi Sukanya Dutta in New Delhi, Harpreet Bajwa in Chandigarh, Rajesh Kumar Thakur in Patna, Sudhir Suryawanshi in Mumbai, Mukesh Ranjan in Ranchi, Anuraag Singh in Bhopal)

Know the disease

What is Mucormycosis?

Fungal infection caused by a group of moulds called mucormycetes. Affects those on medication for other problems that reduce their ability to fight environmental pathogens. After inhaling fungal spores, their sinuses or lungs may get affected.

What can it lead to?

Serious disease with symptoms of pain and redness around the eyes & nose, fever, headache, coughing, shortness of breath, bloody vomit.

When should one be cautious of it?

Be careful in case of sinusitis nasal congestion, blackish/bloody nasal discharge, pain on cheekbone and, one-sided facial pain .


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