Increase in black fungus infections offers new COVID-19 challenge

Physicians in India have reported 7,200 documented cases of mucormycosis infections in patients with severe COVID-19 infections.

Amid the challenges of treating COVID-19 patients, physicians in India may have found another hurdle in the pandemic battle after reporting cases of mucormycosis — black fungus infections in patients with severe COVID-19 infections.

The cases are being called an epidemic by physicians in India, with 7,200 cases documented. The disease is not limited to India and other cases have been reported in the United Kingdom.

While mucormycosis is rare, it is thriving in the COVID-19 environment with about half of the patients succumbing to the disease.

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Those patients who are affected generally have compromised immune systems.

The Indian Council of Medical Research issued an advisory about the dangers of black fungus and noted that 5 states in India have declared an epidemic, and cases are expected to be diagnosed elsewhere in the country.

In many cases, the patients inhale the mold, which is ubiquitous in soil. After it is inhaled, the mold then travels to the brain. In some more severe cases, the eye or sections of the skull are removed to save the patients.

Physicians often treat with anti-fungal drugs, which are in short supply in India. As a result of the shortage, the government is looking outside the country for supplies.

Amid the cases of black fungus epidemic in India, one COVID-19 treatment may be paving the way for the infections.

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Using steroids to treat COVID-19 was identified as the culprit because steroids suppress the immune system.

In addition, the infection also develops in patients with diabetes, which is rampant in India. Patients on ventilators are often exposed to more moisture and can develop mucormycosis.

In addition to mucormycosis, other fungi, such as Aspergillus and Candida auris, have emerged in patients with severe cases of COVID-19.