A deadly black fungus infects some COVID-19 patients in India that potentially affects organs like the brain, eyes, spleen, and heart.

Doctors warn that as the vast nation battles against the massive outbreak of COVID-19, a growing number of patients recovered from the viral infection in India are contracting the deadly black fungus.

On Monday, India has reported nearly 370,000 coronavirus cases that take the country's total to 22.7 million with over 3,700 deaths. Doctors said that the actual number of cases and fatalities could be much higher.

Deadly Black Fungus Are Damaging COVID-19 Patients In India, Doctors Warn
(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
Zygomycosis/mucormycosis Large, irregular, non-septate hyphae; some with 90-degree angle branching.

Mucormycosis Among COVID-19 Patients in India

According to Live Science via ScienceAlert, this rare but fatal fungal infection is called mucormycosis or also known as a black fungus.

The CDC said that black fungus is caused by a group of molds known as mucomycetes that grow in soil and decaying organic matter, like rotting leaves and wood.

It could enter the body through cuts and abrasions in the skin or through sinuses or lungs when people breathe in fungal spores. Once inside, it becomes deadly as it damages internal organs.

"It is ubiquitous and found in soil and air and even in the nose and mucus of healthy people," Dr. Akshay Nair, a Mumbai-based eye surgeon, told BBC News.

People with weak immune systems are often the target of mucormycosis. These people include those with diabetes and people who are taking medicines that suppress immune activity. Now, it is also infecting those with COVID-19 or those who just recently recovered.

The states of Maharashtra, where the capital is located, have reported 200 cases of mucormycosis in recovered COVID-19 patients, while eight people have already died from black fungus, The New York Times reported.

There are also cases in the city of Delhi and Gujarat state. The Indian government has already ordered 5,000 doses of amphotericin B, an antifungal drug, to treat the fungal infection.

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Why Are COVID-19 Patients in India Getting Infected With Black Fungus?

BBC News reported that the rise in cases might be connected to the use of steroids, that suppress immune systems, in hospitalized COVID-19 patients.

Also, many families have started treating relatives with COVID-19 at home that may have exposed them to the black fungus after receiving medicine or oxygen therapy in a less sterile environment.

Nair said that there have been cases of fungal infection in April who have diabetes and have recently recovered from the viral infection at home since hospitals are full. The news outlet reported that 11 patients have already had eye removal surgery because of the black fungus.

Treatment for Mucormycosis

According to the CDC, mucormycosis infection is treated with antifungal prescription drugs, such as amphotericin B, posaconazole, or isavuconazole.

In the worst-case scenario, some infected patients may have to undergo surgery to cut away or remove the infected tissue.

Yogesh Dabholkar, an EENT specialist at Mumbai's DY Patil Hospital, said that the drugs used to treat black fungus are expensive. SBS News reported that one treatment drug is now running short in government hospitals because of the sudden spike in cases.

"The mortality rate is very high... Even the few that recover, only recover with extensive and aggressive surgery," Dr. Bajan said.

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