1.What is black fungus?
Mucormycosis or “black fungus” is a very rare infection. It is caused by exposure to mucor mold commonly found in soil, manure, plants, and decaying fruits and vegetables. It mainly affects people who are on medication for health problems that reduce their ability to fight environmental pathogens, say experts. The infection has an overall mortality rate of 50%.
2.What triggers it?
Experts believe that mucormycosis may be being triggered by the use of steroids, a life-saving treatment for severe and critically ill COVID-19 patients. Steroids reduce inflammation in the lungs for Covid-19 and appear to help stop some of the damage that can happen when the body's immune system goes into overdrive to fight off coronavirus. But they also reduce immunity and push up blood sugar levels in both diabetics and non-diabetic Covid-19 patients. Doctors opine that this drop in immunity could be triggering these cases of “Black fungus”.
3.Which parts of the body does the black fungus affect?
According to case reports, the fungus affects the ear, nose, throat, and sometimes, even the eyes of patients.
4.Who is most susceptible to catch the infection?
Speaking to the BBC, Dr Akshay Nair
, a Mumbai-based eye surgeon said that those with diabetes who have recovered from COVID-19 have been more at risk. "Diabetes lowers the body's immune defences, coronavirus exacerbates it, and then steroids which help fight Covid-19 act like fuel to the fire," says Dr Nair.
The doctor — who works in three hospitals in Mumbai, one of the worst-hit cities in the second wave — says he has already seen some 40 patients suffering from the fungal infection in April. Many of them were diabetics who had recovered from Covid-19 at home. Eleven of them had to have an eye surgically removed.
Between December and February, just six of his colleagues in five cities - Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Delhi and Pune - reported 58 cases of the infection. Most of the patients contracted it between 12 to 15 days after recovery from Covid-19.
5.Are there black fungus cases in Tamil Nadu?
Dr R Chiranjeevi, who is on COVID-19 duty at Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital, says, "There are some cases that show signs of mucormycosis, mainly due to steroid treatment for COVID-19. The patients with sinusitis and cough post-COVID-19 treatment indicate the presence of black fungus. Since there is no complete follow-up post-discharge due to the increased number of cases, the exact numbers of cases are not known.”