'Black fungus' adds to India's COVID woes
The Indian government has told doctors to look out for signs of mucormycosis or "black fungus" in COVID-19 patients as hospitals report a rise in cases of the rare but potentially fatal infection. The state-run Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) said at the weekend that doctors treating COVID-19 patients, diabetics and those with compromised immune systems should watch for early symptoms including sinus pain or nasal blockage on one side of the face, one-sided headache, swelling or numbness, toothache and loosening of teeth.
- The disease, which can lead to blackening or discolouration over the nose, blurred or double vision, chest pain, breathing difficulties and coughing blood, is strongly linked to diabetes.
- And diabetes can in turn be exacerbated by steroids such as dexamethasone, used to treat severe COVID-19.
- There have been cases reported in several other countries - including the UK, U.S., France, Austria, Brazil and Mexico, but the volume is much bigger in India.
- India has not published national data on mucormycosis but has said there is no major outbreak.
What is Mucormycosis
- Mucormycosis, known colloquially as the black fungus, is a rare but dangerous fungal infection caused by a group of moulds known as mucormycetes, which are present naturally in the environment.
- They only cause serious complications when a patient has pre-existing health problems or has taken medication that compromises the immunity system.
- The fungal spores commonly enter through inhalation and affect the sinuses or lungs. They can also enter through an open cut or wound and infect the skin.