Our country is already suffering from a deep crisis of Covid-19 and adding to that burden – mucormycosis – a rare fungal infection, has caused chaos in patients who are recovering or are already recovered from the coronavirus.
Formerly known as zygomycosis – the black fungus is the disease caused by many fungi that belong to the fungal family "Mucorales". Usually found in the natural environment, especially in soil – and often associated with decaying material such as fruit and vegetables.
Fungi in the Mucorales family usually infect people with weakened immune systems, or with damaged tissue. The use of drugs or steroids – such as corticosteroids and dexamethasone, suppress the immune system leading to impaired immune function and other health conditions.
These conditions often occur after trauma, surgery, cancer, or transplant where immunity is largely compromised and tissues are damaged.
Primarily, mucormycosis spreads and affects the human body in these three ways:
When mould spores are inhaled, when spores in food or medicines are swallowed and when these mould spores contaminate wounds and cuts.
Breathing is the most common action, where every day we breathe in the spores of many fungi, but our immune system normally destroys them. Although, with weak immunity, people are left with fewer infection-fighting cells and thus the infection invades their respiratory systems.
When our immune systems are suppressed and lungs are damaged – in the case of severe Covid-19, which then makes spores grow in our airways, infecting our tissues, lungs, and other body parts.
The most common site for mucormycosis infection is our nose and sinuses. They also manifest in our lungs and then start spreading to our eyes, nose, and brain, causing headaches and blindness.
The outbreak of “black fungus” has occurred in nearly 700 cases, because of the contaminated medical product and supplies – packaged foods, hospital linens, oxygen supply, quality of piping, impaired cylinders and humidifiers. The risk of acquiring Healthcare-Associated Infections and adverse drug reaction increases in patients with prolonged hospitalization by 1.6%. These infections are usually the result of catheter mistake, non-sterile equipment and unsanitary medical devices.
As the cases of black fungus infection have rarely been spotted in other countries but stormed in India is also due to another factor – diabetes. It has been reported that 94% of black fungus infections are found in patients suffering from diabetes and weak immune system.
The tissues of the patients become extremely acidic who have poorly controlled their diabetes, making their body the right environment to grow Mucorales fungi. Therefore, cases with diabetes and obesity tend to develop more severe Covid-19 infections with 67% of no upkeep.
A patient receives corticosteroids – which are mostly used by institutions to treat Covid-19. On the other hand, when such drugs are used on diabetes patients, the risk of mucormycosis infection largely increases.
Consequently, it is highly significant to increase awareness on how to control this fungal infection, what are the symptoms, and how early to diagnose them.
Also, patients who are more prone to black fungus infection should keep an eye on their health and immunity. It is equally important to control and have a regular check of your diabetes and blood pressure, to prevent the infection at an early stage.