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With most patients from outside Delhi coming to hospitals late, shortage of operation theatres, and just the sheer number of patients coming in with the rare fungal infection mucormycosis, referred to as black fungus, doctors have to perform more invasive surgeries to remove dead tissues. At least 15% of the patients have lost their eye sight and 8% had their brain tissue removed, according to data from Lok Nayak hospital.
Two of the Delhi government’s designated centres for treatment of mucormycosis – Lok Nayak and Guru Teg Bahadur hospital — have been seeing the highest number of patients in the city.
At least two-thirds of the mucormycosis patients at Lok Nayak hospital and “most of the cases” at are from outside Delhi, according to officials from the hospitals.
“Yes, we are receiving a high number of patients from outside Delhi; mainly from Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, and Haryana. There are fewer cases from Delhi; this could possibly be because steroids were used in a controlled manner in Delhi hospitals,” said Dr PK Rathore, head of the department of ENT at Maulana Azad Medical College associated with Lok Nayak hospital.
He also said that most patients reached the hospital in an advanced stage, meaning they needed surgery to remove necrotised or dead tissue resulting in loss of eyesight or facial disfigurement. “Almost all the patients admitted to our hospital needed surgery. Our data shows the eyes had to be removed in 15% of the cases and brain tissue in 8% cases,” said Dr Rathore.
With so many patients in need of surgery, the hospital had to increase hours for ENT and eye surgery. “Now we are performing surgeries even on Sundays to cut down on the waiting time, which has reduced from a week of ten days to a maximum three; we have OT days twice a week,” he said.
Mucormycosis is a rare fungal infection that usually happens in immunocompromised patients such as those who have undergone transplant surgery. However, the numbers have shot up after the second wave of Covid-19 as those who had the infection along with uncontrolled diabetes and were given steroids for treatment started getting the infection.
It mainly affects the mouth, nose, eyes, and brain by cutting off the blood supply to tissues resulting in tissue death. The surgeons have to remove the dead tissue before the medicine is administered.
There were 752 patients with the infection still under treatment as on July 6, as per the latest government data available.
Mucormycosis cases went up two times last year between September and December across 16 centres in the country, according to Dr Arunaloke Chakrabarti, head of the department of microbiology at Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education & Research, Chandigarh. He is part of the Fungal Infection Study Forum that plans to do a similar study to assess the increase in cases after the huge second wave of Covid-19 cases in April-May.