All you need to know About BlackFungus

All you need to know About Black Fungus

Black fungus or Mucormycosis (its scientific name) is a fungal infection which is mostly affecting the COVID-19 patients (some who have recovered) with uncontrollable diabetes and a prolonged stay in intensive care unit (ICU), and which might turn fatal if uncared for.

Last month the government said that the black fungus mainly affects people who are on medication that reduces their ability to fight environmental pathogens. Black Fungus has a close link to diabetes and conditions that compromise the immune system. Experts have said that overuse of drugs that suppress the immune system during the COVID-19 pandemic could be causing the surge.

This fungal infection causes blackening and/or discolouration over your nose, blurred or double vision, severe chest pain, breathing difficulties and coughing blood. It spreads through the respiratory tract and erodes facial structures. Sometimes, doctors will have to surgically remove an infected eye to stop the infection from reaching the brain. (1 &3)

Does it spread by unsanitized oxygen cylinders or ventilators being used?

A rapid rise in cases of “black fungus”, has added to the challenges faced by India’s healthcare system as it deals with a massive second wave of COVID-19 infections. Experts say unhygienic conditions can increase the risk of developing these infections. They discussed that there is a lot of contamination in the pipes of the cylinders and the humidifiers which are being used repeatedly and rigorously to provide oxygen to the patients.

If the patient is immuno-suppressed, and he/she have been on these pipes and oxygen concentrators for a long period of time, then these infections get much more of an opportunity to get in.But there’s still some debate going-on this particular topic.

Why only black fungus and not any other fungal infections?

COVID-19 has been associated with a wide range of secondary fungal and bacterial infections, but the experts say that India’s second COVID wave has created a perfect environment for black fungus. Low oxygen levels, high diabetes, high iron levels, immunosuppression, as well as several other factors including prolonged hospitalization with mechanical ventilators, creates an ideal setting for black fungus to creep in. contracting mucormycosis, researchers wrote in the journal Diabetes & Metabolic Syndrome: Clinical Research & Reviews

Also the rapid use of steroid drugs for treating covid-19 is setting the stage for black fungus. Steroids reduce inflammation in the lungs for Covid-19 and appear to help stop some of the damage that can happen when the body's immune system goes into overdrive to fight off coronavirus. But they also reduce immunity and push up blood sugar levels in both diabetics and non-diabetic Covid-19 patients. Hence it becomes easy for the black fungus to spread its wings inside the body.

Is it contagious?

The black fungal infection is not a communicable disease, which means that it cannot spread from contact between humans and/or animals.

However, it does spread from fungal spores that are present in the air, soil or in the environment, which are practically impossible to avoid. Both the bacteria and fungi are already present in our bodies, but they are kept in check by our body’s immunity system. When the level immunity system goes down because of any severe treatment like cancer, diabetes or use of steroids in the case of C0vid-19, then these fungal organisms get an upper hand and then they get multiplied.

How to prevent the black fungal infection?

Due to its increased fatality rate, people should be and are also taking vigorous actions in protecting themselves and their families. They must avoid areas with dust, including excavation and construction sites. Should avoid contact with water-damaged buildings and floodwater and prevent joining in activities which involve close contact with soil and mud. When handling soil, you should make sure to use protective gloves and wash your hands properly with soap and water.

Precautions also include management of pre-existing conditions, medications, surgical procedures, and follow-up for at least four weeks. Using of steroids, antibiotics and anti-fungal medications must only be used as directed by the doctor. Self-medication must be avoided completely. (2)

In treating the black fungal infection, patients need to receive treatment promptly. Usually, antifungal drugs like Liposomal Amphotericin B are given to kill and stop the spread of the fungus. If the case becomes critical, then the patient needs to undergo a surgery.

For how long should you follow these precautions?

It might take up to 4-6 months for an individual to fully recover from the after-effects of COVID-19. It is advisable to take all precautions till then.

Reference List –

  1. Times of India (2021), “Black Fungus: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment & revention”.https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/life-style/health-fitness/health-news/black-fungus-infection-causes-symptoms-treatment-and-prevention/photostory/82857177.cms
  2. DNA India (2021), “Myths & Facts About Black Fungus”.https://www.dnaindia.com/explainer/report-dna-explainer-what-is-the-government-advisory-on-black-fungus-all-you-need-to-know-2893304
  3. Medical Life Sciences (2021), “Black Fungus Complicates India’s Covid-19 Pandemic”.https://www.news-medical.net/news/20210513/Black-fungus-complicates-Indias-COVID-pandemic.aspx

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