Black fungus epidemic triggers new challenge in India

A doctor assists a Covid-19 coronavirus patient with Black Fungus, a deadly and rare fungal infection, as he receives treatments at the NSCB hospital in Jabalpur, on May 20, 2021. Photo: Uma Shankar Mishra | AFP

NEW DELHI: As India battles a second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, a large number of cases of a deadly fungal infection called mucormycosis, or “black fungus”, has triggered a new health challenge in the populous South Asian country.

Mucormycosis, which mainly affects people with weak immune system and could lead to the loss of eyesight and the surgical removal of the nose and jaw bone to stop it from spreading. It is being detected among patients who are recovering or have recovered from Covid-19.

“The situation is alarming,” Dr Hemant Deshmukh, dean of the government-run King Edward Memorial Hospital in the financial capital Mumbai, told Anadolu Agency.

“Right now, if you ask me the numbers, it is something like earlier there were five cases in 25 years, and now you are seeing 25 in five days… Such is the situation.”

The government has not released detailed data about the severity of the infection. However, Minister for Chemicals and Fertilizers Sadananda Gowda last week wrote on Twitter that approximately 8,848 cases were reported across the country.

Dr Randeep Guleria, director of the New Delhi-based All India Institute of Medical Sciences Hospital, said that while the number of infections being reported is increasing it is not a communicable disease.

“It does not spread from one person to another like Covid-19 does,” he said during a briefing, adding most of those getting infected are found to have been either diabetic or taking steroids during Covid-19 treatment.

“This infection is seen very rarely in those who are neither diabetic nor taking steroids,” the top doctor added. “The diabetic patients are at a huge risk.”

The states of Maharashtra and Gujarat have reported nearly half of the cases, according to official data.

The situation is worrying in other states as well, where doctors say that the large number of cases has further strained the healthcare sector.

“The cases this year are 10 times higher than last year. We are doing three surgeries a week as compared to one such surgery in a year,” Dr Bulbul Gupta, an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist at the New Delhi-based Fortis Hospital, terming the situation “quite bad”.

Gupta added that there has also been a shortage of the treatment drugs of the deadly infection, which has made treatment more difficult.

According to doctors treating the infection the mortality rate is high, at over 50 per cent. – Bernama