Black Fungus-adding more darkness to the COVID-19 recovery path

Lalit Koundaal

Not to undermine the fact that the fungi are important decomposers in the ecosystem, without fungi the decaying organic matter would accumulate. Nowadays the same fungi have become a challenge to dispense with. 

Along with COVID-19, there is one more disease that is being talked about and this is Mucormycosis, popularly known as a black fungus. This is affecting those who are either recovering or have recovered recently from COVID-19. Needless to say – recovered with impaired immune system.

Based on the statistics from India, the worst affected country at the moment, those patients who have recovered from COVID-19 are now being treated for mucormycosis. Black fungus is rare but deadly because of its high mortality rate (50% or higher), even higher than the COVID-19 mortality rate. This happens due to the human body becoming vulnerable to opportunistic pathogens like mucormycosis.

The states have been forced to create a separate database to analyze the spread of mucormycosis and devise an effective strategy to counter this byproduct of COVID-19, if I may say so.

Cause of mucormycosis – 

There must be fungi around that are causing mucormycosis. But where are these fungi coming from? The answer is Mucormycetes, the group of fungi that is causing the black fungus. 

These Mucormycetes are present throughout the environment, in soil, decaying leaves, compost mounts, and animal dung. They are more prominent on soil than air. The people in the urban areas may have less chance of getting infected through the soil, but definitely through the environment. The dissemination of the Mucormycetes is easier through the environment than soil.

We breathe in this very environment and possess no faculty to breathe by filtering Mucormycetes fungal spores. There is absolutely no way to ward them off.

Again it comes to the immunity system of the individual – strong or weak. Like we say in the case of COVID-19, diabetic patients are more prone to COVID-19 due to impaired immunity. The Mucormycetes are homing on to those with a practically lower level of immunity due to COVID-19 treatment in hospitals.

People with weaker immune systems, get their lungs infected after breathing in Mucormycetes spores and fungus then spreads to other parts of the body.

It can also affect the skin after a cut, burn or other types of skin injury.

Black Fungus name is not due to color of actual fungus- it’s because fungus can cause ‘Tissue Necrosis’.

Necrosis means death so Tissue Necrosis means tissue death. These dead tissues are black in color.

The signs & symptoms of mucormycosis-

The signs & symptoms of mucormycosis are to be identified depending upon the location of the growing fungus in the body. 

Sign & Symptoms of rhinocerebral (sinus and brain) mucormycosis include:

  • One-sided facial swelling
  • Constant Headache
  • Nasal or sinus congestion
  • Black lesions on the nasal bridge or upper inside of the mouth that quickly become more severe
  • Fever

Sign & Symptoms of pulmonary (lung) mucormycosis include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath

Sign & Symptoms of  Cutaneous (skin) mucormycosis include:

  • Blisters or ulcers
  • Blackening of the affected area
  • Excessive redness
  • Swelling around the wound

Sign & Symptoms of gastrointestinal mucormycosis include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Gastrointestinal bleeding

Disseminated mucormycosis typically occurs in people who are already sick from other medical conditions, so it can be difficult to know which symptoms are related to mucormycosis. Patients with disseminated infection in the brain can developmental status changes or coma.

Prevention

  • Wear a mask at all times
  • Wear shoes and cover your body when outdoors
  • Wear gloves while gardening
  • Maintain personal hygiene
  • Consume your steroids as directed by your doctor (it is seen that in many post- covid recovery cases that steroids can cause issues, learn more about these steroids and details on how steroids are used in Covid treatment, check out our previous article.
  • Focus on the consumption of immunity boosters

Treatment 

Get your immune system stronger and that’s the only remedy. The medicines might help but it might take the patient to the level of surgically removing all dead and infected tissues.

Administering the course of anti-fungal therapy but the drugs used for this therapy are expensive and scarce.

Any fungal infection for that matter has a longer curing cycle. All the COVID-19 survivors to note, it’s likely to take more time to get your immunity back to the same level. Till such time, you all need to be more cautious. 

Do you remember the maxim – prevention is better than cure!

Sources-

https://www.livemint.com/science/health/black-fungus-govt-shares-do-s-and-don-ts-amid-rise-in-mucormycosis-cases-in-covid-patients-11621002697776.html

https://www.indiatoday.in/coronavirus-outbreak/story/can-use-of-steroids-lead-to-black-fungus-how-should-it-be-treated-1802736-2021-05-14

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