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Mucormycosis – The Black Fungus Infection

Dr. Shailesh Wagle, Manager- Community Investment, United Way Mumbai

May 21, 2021 / 01:39 PM IST

While the world battles the second wave of COVID-19, another infection which is fungal in origin called Mucormycosis is slowly claiming lives of few admitted for treatment of COVID-19. Mucormycosis, also known as “Black Fungus” is a caused by a type of molds called Mucormycetes which are present in our surrounding environment throughout. While the presence of the causative agent is ample, the disease by itself is rare and affects those who are heavily immunocompromised and also having comorbidities such as diabetes.

COVID-19 affects the lungs causing inflammation or swelling which reduced the capacity of lungs to process oxygen. To relieve this, many patients are administered steroidal injections which reduce the inflammation.  While steroids do provide certain benefits, they also reduce the immune capacity of a person to fight infections. Such cases are prone to Mucormycosis. The disease affects the sinus and lungs and presents with symptoms such as swelling on one side of the face, severe headache, nasal congestion, black lesions on the nose or upper side of the mouth, chest pain, breathlessness etc.

The risk of infection is more to those who have a pre-existing morbidity such as Diabetes with impaired kidney function, Cancer, long term use of steroids and depleted levels of white blood cells (neutropenia). In case of getting infected, antifungal medicine is administered intravenously or orally, often surgery can also be recommended to remove the infected tissue.

While the cases of Mucormycosis are still rare, it is recommended that everyone takes necessary precautions to avoid possible infection. To do this, wearing masks is one of the best ways to avoid entry of the fungal spores into your respiratory system. An N95 mask or double mask (3 ply inside and cloth mask outside) proves to be sufficient. Maintaining good sanitation at home and your surroundings helps by reducing the growth of the fungus. This is in areas especially where water seepage is predominant. Wearing protective equipment such as gloves, masks, shoes while undertaking activities where contact with soil is a possibility should be performed. Those who are having any of the comorbidities described above should take thorough precautions to avoid infection.