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Arrival of the Black Monster

” India: Dirty oxygen cylinders, ventilators behind BLACK FUNGUS ? ” – Aljazeera

” Spread of BLACK FUNGUS adds to India’s Covid woes ” – NIKKEI Asia

” BLACK FUNGUS is creating a whole other health emergency for Covid stricken India ” – The Guardian

These are the headlines of the international media which are keeping a close watch on the awful situation of India these days. With this, the most common question in people’s minds is, What is this Black Fungus disease?

The black fungus disease, Mucormycosis, is a serious, rare fungal infection. It is frequently a life-threatening infection. It is caused by a group of molds called mucormycetes, including Rhizopus species, Mucor species, Rhizomucor species, Lichtheimia species, and Apophysomyces species. These molds can be found throughout the environment very commonly. They are most commonly found in soil along with decaying organic matter and rarely found in the air. The molds generally affect people with health problems or those who take medicines that lower their immunity. They are not harmful to all people. The mortality rate of the disease is 50%.

There are several types of mucormycosis such as rhinocerebral mucormycosis, pulmonary mucormycosis, gastrointestinal mucormycosis, cutaneous mucormycosis, and disseminated mucormycosis. All these types are caused by the same set of molds but the infected body parts differ among them.

Rhino cerebral mucormycosis is the black fungal infection in sinuses that spread to the brain. It is very common in people with uncontrolled diabetes and people subjected to kidney transplants. When the sinuses and brain have infected the symptoms like facial swelling, headache, nasal or sinus congestion, black lesions on the nasal bridge and fever can be experienced.
Pulmonary mucormycosis infects the lungs and it is common in people subjected to organ or stem cell transplant and in cancer patients. The infected people usually suffer from cough, fever, chest pain, and shortness of breathing.
Gastrointestinal mucormycosis commonly infects young children. The major target of the disease is especially the premature or low weight infants and the children with low immunity. Abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, and gastrointestinal bleeding can indicate the infection.
Cutaneous mucormycosis occurs if the fungi enter the body through a break in the skin. This type of mucormycosis is common in people with weak immunity. The symptoms of the infection are blisters or ulcers and black colouration of the infected area, pain, warmth, and excessive redness or swelling around a wound.
Disseminated mucormycosis occurs when the infection spreads through the bloodstream affecting the brain, spleen, heart, and skin. This can lead to mental status change or coma conditions.

Mucormycosis transmits through the inhalation, inoculation, or ingestion of the spores of the molds from the environment. But the disease cannot spread between people or between people and animals. The presence of the disease can be diagnosed by a positive culture from a specimen from the site of infection or histopathological evidence. There are no vaccines discovered yet to cure the disease. The antifungal medication following early recognition and diagnosis can recover the patient from the infection. In addition to that, the surgical debriment or resection of infected tissues is often necessary to prevent further spread. If left untreated the infection can lead to a brain infection, paralysis, pneumonia, seizures, or even death.

But a sudden rash of cases in this disease was reported in India just among recovered and recovering Covid-19 patients. Rajasthan, a state of India, has declared mucormycosis as an epidemic due to increasing numbers. India’s second Covid wave has created a perfect environment for the spread of the disease it seems. Low oxygen, diabetes, high iron levels, immunosuppression, and prolonged hospitalization with mechanical ventilators are believed to trigger the fungal spread.

Rhino – orbito – cerebral mucormycosis and pulmonary mucormycosis are common among Covid – 19 patients. Doctors believe that the infection is triggered by the use of steroids, an essential life-saving drug for Covid – 19 patients. It reduces inflammation in the lungs along with a reduction in immunity. Usage of steroids leads to an increase in blood sugar levels in both diabetic and non – diabetic Covid – 19 patients. Experts believe that unsanitary conditions can also add fire to the spread.

The worst side of the disease nowadays is the loss of body organs such as the eyes in order to prevent the spread of infection to the brain and death regardless of age. After a battle with a deadly virus, the people are getting a deadly attack from a fungus. This is creating a panic among people all over the world. So, care should be taken to not to get infected by this disease. For that protect yourself from the risk environments like construction and excavation sites, water-damaged buildings, and floodwater. If possible use an N95 respirator in dusty sites. Use protective gear such as gloves, masks, and shoes in activities involving close contact with soil or dust, like gardening. Maintain good health habits to keep up with good immunity. Administration of the right dose and duration of steroids can minimize the risk of Covid – 19 patients getting infected by the disease.

Article by:
Branavi. Y | Faculty of Science

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