As of May 24, over 9,000 black fungus cases have been reported in India. In the light of the increasing rise in the number of cases, several states like Delhi, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Odisha, Telangana and Maharashtra have already declared the disease as an epidemic.
Black Fungs or Mucormycosis is caused due to exposure to mucor mould, which is widely found in soil, plants, manure, and rotting fruits and vegetables. Micromycetes are a type of mould that causes this infection. However, it is not a contagious disease, which means that it does not transmit from one person to another.
Headaches, nasal congestion, facial pain, loss of vision or pain in the eyes, swelling in the cheeks and eyes, and black crusts in the nose are all common symptoms of the Black fungus. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Mucormycosis has a 54 percent overall all-cause mortality rate.
Causes of Black Fungus
1. Weak Immune System
The rare fungal infection primarily affects individuals with a weaker immune system. Since Covid-19 already affects the immune system, they become more prone to Black Fungus. Furthermore, cancer patients who have had an organ transplant or stem cell transplant, neutropenia (low white blood cell count), long-term corticosteroid use, iron overload in the body, skin lesions from surgery, burns or wounds, preterm, and low birth weights are more susceptible to mucormycosis infection.
2. Usage of Excessive Steroids
Experts have mentioned that diabetic Covid-19 patients are at a higher risk of catching black fungus. Since steroids are used in treatment during the second week, if the patient is severe, it makes them prone to the infection. The acidic environment found in diabetic ketoacidosis is ideal for these organisms' fast proliferation. Diabetes is also linked to a weakened immune system, which allows the fungus to evade detection and destroy all tissues.
3. Reusing A Mask
According to medical experts, reusing a mask or remaining in a room with insufficient ventilation has been linked to the development of mucormycosis. "I would reckon is unhygienic practices, like wearing masks over a long time without washing them, or staying in poorly ventilated rooms such as a basement, or less airy rooms. So, I would say, the second factor is also a trigger point for contractor mucormycosis," Dr Suresh Singh Naruka said to Zee News.
4. Antibiotics, Zinc and Steaming
Dr Rajeev Jayadevan, a gastroenterologist, identified three potential causes for Black fungus: antibiotics, zinc, and steaming. Antibiotics, he added, have been proven to exacerbate the fungal infection.
"Fungi thrive in zinc-rich environments, and mammalian cells fight to keep zinc away from fungus to avoid infection," he said, indicating that zinc could be a factor. He explained that excess steam could damage the delicate mucus layer and even produce burns along the mucosa, making it simple for fungus to breach our natural defence. "Burns were responsible for 10-20% of the previous mucormycosis in India," Dr Rajeev told The Print.
5. Cold Oxygen
Cold oxygen is another factor that can contribute to developing Black Fungus. It is extremely harmful to provide cold oxygen directly from the cylinder. "Anti-fungal drug Posaconazole can be given to high-risk individuals to reduce incidents of black fungus," Dr P Sarat Chandra said to Hindustan Times.
Niti Aayog member V.K. Paul, at a briefing on Saturday, said that a link between steroid use for Covid treatment and mucormycosis or black fungus, a disease being widely reported among patients who have recovered from coronavirus, could not be denied.
However, a former president of the Indian Medical Association's Cochin chapter has pointed out that the government must widen its search for the cause of the sudden black fungus outbreak, which has been declared an epidemic by several states.
Also Read: #SaveLakshadweep: Why Are Island Residents Seeking National Attention After New 'Draconian' Bill?