Mucormycosis, also known as black fungus, can turn dangerous if left untreated, doctors said on Friday amid reports of re-emergence of the rare deadly fungal infection among COVID-19 patients across hospitals in Delhi, Pune, and Ahmedabad.
The fungal infection is caused by a group of molds called ‘mucromycetes’. These molds live throughout the environment. Mucormycosis mainly affects people who have health problems or take medicines that lower the body’s ability to fight germs and sickness.
The common symptoms associated with the disease include headache, facial pain, nasal congestion, loss of vision or pain in the eyes, swelling in cheeks and eyes, and black crusts in the nose. The US Centre for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates Mucormycosis with an overall all-cause mortality rate of 54 percent.
“Mucormycosis can be very dangerous if left untreated can cause mutilating damage to face, nose, eyes with disfigurement and loss of vision and also cause invasive brain infection,” Dr. Mahesh Kumar, Consultant -Internal Medicine, Narayana Health City, Bengaluru, told IANS.
While “Aspergillus and Candida are more common fungal infections, but this infection is dangerous because it involves the sinus and brain and happens to those who are immunocompromised and/or to patients on steroids,” added Dr Vikas Maurya, Director, and HOD, Pulmonology, Fortis Hospital, Shalimar Bagh.
According to health experts, Mucormycosis (previously called zygomycosis) has been a cause of disease and death in transplants, ICU, and immunodeficient individuals. However, it is the rapid increase in numbers seen in unsuspected COVID patients which is a matter of grave concern. Patients who recover from the COVID infection are increasingly being pushed back into the ICUs.
“Mucormycosis is affecting COVID patients more due to prolonged administration of steroids and subsequent immunocompromised state,” Dr Suranjit Chatterjee, Senior Consultant, Department of Internal Medicine, Indraprastha Apollo hospital, New Delhi, told IANS.
People with diabetes, those on steroids and humidified oxygen for a long time, and COVID patients with pre-existing comorbidities are the most at risk. Others include patients like those post chemotherapies, those on long-term immunosuppressive drugs.
The Drug Controller General of India, in March this year, approved Mumbai-based bio-pharmaceutical firm Bharat Serums and Vaccines Limited to use anti-fungal medication — Liposomal Amphotericin B or LAmB — as a medical intervention in patients of Mucormycosis.
The risk of this fungus can be avoided by avoiding the prolonged use of steroids. The treatment also involves anti-fungal and surgery (if required) to remove the affected area, Chatterjee said.
Judicious use of steroids and immunosuppressive drugs especially in elderly, immunocompromised, cancer, and diabetic patients with Covid, are needed during treatment, Kumar advised.