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Explainer-What is the “black fungus” attacking COVID-19 patients in India?

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(Reuters)-The surge in cases of zygomycosis, also known as black fungus, has added to the challenges facing the Indian healthcare system to address the massive second wave of COVID-19 infection.

File Photo: On May 10, 2021, a woman walks past graffiti on the street as coronavirus disease (COVID-19) spreads in Mumbai, India.Reuters / Francis Mascarenhas

The following provides information about zygomycosis, opinions from health professionals, and the scientific evidence behind what may be causing the recent increase in cases.

What is Mucormycosis?

Mucormycosis is a fungal infection that causes darkening and discoloration of the nose, blurred vision and diplopia, chest pain, dyspnea, and hemoptysis.

The disease is closely related to diabetes and conditions that impair the immune system. Experts say abuse during the COVID-19 pandemic of certain drugs that suppress the immune system may be causing a surge.

According to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the mortality rate for mucormycosis is 54% and can vary depending on the patient’s condition and affected body parts.

States across India have reported more than 5,000 rare cases of illness in recent weeks, most of them infected with or recovering from COVID-19.

Is it contagious?

The disease is not contagious. In other words, it does not spread from contact with humans or animals. However, it spreads from fungal spores that are present in the air or in the environment. This is almost impossible to avoid.

“Bacteria and fungi are already present in our body, but they are suppressed by the body’s immune system,” said K Bhujang Shetty, director of the Narayana Netoralaya Specialty Ophthalmology Hospital. “When the immune system is weakened due to cancer treatment, diabetes, or the use of steroids, these organisms dominate and proliferate,” Shetty said.

Is the use of unsterilized oxygen cylinders or ventilators causing the outbreak?

It’s hard to say.

Experts say unsanitary conditions can increase the risk of developing an infection.

Nishant Kumar, an ophthalmologist at Hinduja Hospital in Mumbai, said:

“If the immune system is suppressed and these pipes and oxygen are used for a long period of time, these infections have a much greater chance of invading.”

However, there is disagreement on this point.

“Hospitals have been dirty since before April. Epidemiological studies are needed to assess why these cases are currently on the rise,” said the attending physician and researcher at the Mahat Maganji Institute of Medical Science in Maharastra. The SP Calantry, which is, states.

Why is mucormycosis not another fungal infection?

COVID-19 is associated with a variety of secondary bacterial and fungal infections, but experts say the second wave of COVID-19 in India created an optimal environment for zygomycosis. is.

Hypoxia, diabetes, high iron levels, and immunosuppression, combined with several other factors, including long-term ventilator hospitalization, create an ideal environment for mucor disease, researchers say, in the journal Diabetes & Metabolic Syndrome: I write in Clinical Research & Reviews.

Report by Manas Mishra and Kannaki Deka.Edited by Mark Heinrich

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