‘Stubble burning led to mucormycosis during pandemic’
The sudden onset of mucormycosis which manifested during the second virus wave in 2021, affecting the eyes, is said to have been caused by the increased use of cow dung and stubble burning, according to research details published in the journal of the American Microbiology Society, one of the authors Dr Shibu Varkey revealed.
VELLORE: It may be recalled that health experts were taken aback during the second wave by the sudden increase in mucormycosis cases across the country when the nation was already battling deaths due to lack of oxygen. The Government of India declared mucormycosis an epidemic on May 20 when the number of cases crossed 41,000 in July that year.
According to noted ophthalmologist Dr Shibu Varkey, who was recently in Vellore, the sudden spurt in the mucormycosis (MM) cases was associated with increased use of cow dung in various forms and burning of stubble during that period.
“Initially health experts felt that increased MM incidence was related to the high incidence of diabetes mellitus (DM) and its treatment with corticosteroids. But when compared to other regions in the world which also have high diabetes incidence and also use of steroids in treatment MM cases were less there than in India,” he said
This resulted in a global study undertaken by four doctors including Varkey. The other three include independent researchers Jessy Skaria and Teny M John and Dimitrios P Konotoyiannis who are with the department of infectious diseases and infection control of the University of Texas MD Anderson cancer centre. “Our research which included epidemiologic studies, phylogenetic analyses and strategic environmental sampling revealed that MM causing fungal spores spread mainly through fumes from the burning of mucorales rich biomass including cow dung and crop stubble,” Vakery said.