Amid battling Covid-19 second wave, a rare ‘black fungus’ that invades the brain is being increasingly reported in patients across India. If left untreated, the infection can be fatal and usually occurs in patients with weak immune systems, especially diabetic. The infection is called mucormycosis and is said to be a ‘very serious infection with high mortality.’
WHAT IS MUCORMYCOSIS?
The disease is caused by a group of moulds, called mucormycetes that thrive throughout the environment. A family of fungus, these mucormycetes can get into your sinuses or air spaces in your head and can deposit there. And when the immune system can’t keep them under control they invade the base of the brain where it becomes a real problem. However, it is important to note that the infection is not contagious and can be entirely via an operation removed if detected at an early stage.
IS MUCORMYCOSIS FOUND IN COVID-19 PATIENTS?
In the first wave of the pandemic, medicos had flagged an increase in mucormycosis cases among COVID-19 patients and doctors told The News Minute (TNM) the number of cases have increased four-fold during the second wave. Though research is yet to establish the links between Covid-19 and the fungal infection, doctors have observed that most Mucormycosis cases they treated in 2020 and early 2021 were reported in patients who recently recovered from Covid-19 and had high blood sugar levels.
Another known factor is exposure to steroids as they increase blood sugar and weaken immune systems. However, even those patients who were not hospitalised or administered steroids have reported mucormycosis, a doctor told TNM.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF MUCORMYCOSIS?
Early symptoms of the infection include obstruction in the nose, swelling in the eye or cheeks, and black dry crusts in the nose, smelly black nasal discharge, face numbness, fever, cold, one-sided headache, swelling or numbness, toothache, and loosening of teeth. And if neglected the infection can even spread to the eyes and then the brain, making it fatal.
Many of these cases are mucormycosis of the maxilla or upper jaw, which leads to the entire jaw detaching from the skull, in severe cases.
HOW TO KEEP AN EYE FOR INFECTION?
A doctor told TNM that keeping a tab on blood sugar levels can reduce the risk of fungal infection. In case it is higher, the patient should go for medication support upon the doctor’s advice. It is also imperative to reduce unnecessary and arbitrary administration of steroids to COVID-19 patients, the doctor added.
The Indian Council of Medical Research and the Union Health Ministry have issued an advisory urging people to wear shoes, long trousers, long sleeve shirts, and gloves while handling soil, moss or manure.
WHICH STATES HAVE REPORTED MUCORMYCOSIS CASES SO FAR?
Around 2,000 patients of the deadly infection are currently being treated across Maharashtra while scores of patients complained of fungal infection symptoms in Gujarat, Odisha, and Delhi. There have been cases reported in several other countries – including the UK, the US, France, Austria, Brazil, and Mexico, but experts claimed that the volume is much bigger in India.
WHAT IS THE TREATMENT FOR MUCORMYCOSIS?
Treatment involves surgically removing all dead and infected tissue and administering a course of antifungal therapy. Yogesh Dabholkar, an ear, nose, and throat specialist at Mumbai’s DY Patil Hospital, told AFP that the drugs used to treat those infected with the fungus were expensive.