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.

What

  1. 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.
  2. And diabetes can in turn be exacerbated by steroids such as dexamethasone, used to treat severe COVID-19.
  3. 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.
  4. India has not published national data on mucormycosis but has said there is no major outbreak.

What is Mucormycosis

  1. 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.
  2. They only cause serious complications when a patient has pre-existing health problems or has taken medication that compromises the immunity system.
  3. 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.