What is the 'black fungus' that is afflicting COVID-19 sufferers in India?

The challenges encountered by India's healthcare system as it deals with a significant second wave of COVID-19 infections have been exacerbated by a substantial surge in instances of mucormycosis, often known as a black fungus.

What is the 'black fungus' that is afflicting COVID-19 sufferers in India?

The following provides background on mucormycosis and expert comments, and scientific evidence on what may be behind the recent increase in cases.

WHAT IS MUCORMYCOSIS, AND HOW DOES IT AFFECT YOU?

Mucormycosis is a fungus that causes blackening or colouring of the nose, impaired or double vision, chest pain, breathing problems, and bloody coughing.

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Diabetes and diseases that impair the immune system are linked to the disease. According to experts, the increase could be due to an overuse of particular immune-suppressing medicines during the COVID-19 epidemic.


According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, mucormycosis has a 54 per cent fatality rate, which varies based on the patients' health and the body part affected.


In recent weeks, states throughout India have reported more than 5,000 cases of the usually unusual disease, mainly in persons who have been infected with COVID-19 or are recovering from it.


IS IT HAZARDOUS?

The sickness is not contagious, which means it cannot be passed from person to person or animal to animal. However, it is spread by fungus spores in the air or the surroundings, which are nearly impossible to prevent.

"Bacteria and fungi are already prevalent in our bodies, but the immune system keeps them in check," said K Bhujang Shetty, director of Narayana Nethralaya, a speciality eye hospital. "When the immune system is compromised by cancer therapy, diabetes, or steroid use, these organisms gain the upper hand and multiply," Shetty explained.


IS THE OUTBREAK CAUSED BY THE USE OF UNSANITIZED OXYGEN CYLINDERS OR VENTILATORS?


It's difficult to say

According to experts, unhygienic circumstances may raise the chance of infection.


"There is a lot of contamination in the oxygen pipes, the cylinders that are being utilized, and the humidifiers that are being used," said Nishant Kumar, an ophthalmologist at Mumbai's Hinduja Hospital.


"If you are immunocompromised and have been on these pipes and oxygens for a long time, these pathogens have a far better chance of infiltrating."


However, there are differing viewpoints on this subject.


"Even before April, hospitals were filthy. S.P. Kalantri, a distinguished doctor and researcher at Maharashtra's Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences, stated, "We need epidemiological studies to understand why these cases are emerging presently."


WHAT MAKES MUCORMYCOSIS DIFFERENT FROM OTHER FUNGAL INFECTIONS?

Although COVID-19 has been linked to various secondary bacterial and fungal illnesses, researchers believe that India's second wave of COVID-19 has created the ideal setting for mucormycosis.


Researchers noted in the journal Diabetes & Metabolic Syndrome: Clinical Research & Reviews that low oxygen, diabetes, high iron levels, immunosuppression, and several other variables, such as prolonged hospitalization with mechanical ventilators, provide an ideal environment for contracting mucormycosis.

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