Listen to this article
As Omicron cases surge across India, return of mucormycosis or black fungus is being dreaded by many. Last year, during the second wave, the rare yet lethal fungal infection caused by a group of mold called Mucormycete led to many fatalities in post Covid patients.
Mucormycosis can cause blindness, organ dysfunction, loss of body tissue, and even death if not treated on time. It can affect areas from where it can be inhaled – nose, sinus or lung.
Covid patients with high blood sugar levels and those on steroids for prolonged periods are said to be at high risk of getting affected by black fungus. Also, patients with immune-compromised systems or those who have undergone transplants or people who are on immunosuppressants or on a ventilator for a long period of time are at risk.
Nasal blockage or congestion, nasal discharge (blackish/ bloody, local pain on the cheekbone, one-sided facial pain, numbness or swelling, blackish discoloration over the bridge of nose, loosening of teeth, blurred or double vision with pain, thrombosis, necrosis, skin lesion, chest pain, pleural effusion, worsening of respiratory symptoms are some of the other symptoms of black fungus.
Mumbai registered its first case of mucormycosis recently where a 70-year-old Covid patient who tested positive on Jan 5 started showing symptoms of black fungus on January 12. Thereafter, he was admitted to the Wockhardt Hospital in Mumbai Central, where he is currently undergoing treatment.
“The patient had got admitted to the hospital on Jan 12 with the complaint of weakness and during the admission the sugar levels went upto 532. He was immediately put on to diabetic ketoacidosis treatment. The family said that from past 10 days the patient was not taking the diabetes medicines. On third day the patient complained of cheek pain and there was a swelling on left side of the face which made us suspicious about mucormycosis. On further investigation it revealed the growth of fungal hyphae. Patient underwent debridement surgery and the tissue was sent for investigations. The patient is stable now and currently on intravenous anti-fungals. He will undergo multiple check surgeries in future too,” said Dr Honey Savla, Internal Medicine, Wockhardt Hospital, Mumbai Central.
While mucormycosis cases are currently not being reported widely, we asked experts if there was a possibility of this deadly post-Covid disease making a comeback and wreaking havoc like last year.
“We know from the second wave that the risk factors for mucormycosis are prolonged hospitalizations, need of prolonged corticosteroids in those with moderate to severe covid and indiscriminate use of steroids in those with mild Covid. Though it is still too early to know if we will see large number of mucormycosis patients in the third wave, we expect it to be much lower because all the above risk factors are much lower with Omicron. Responsible use of steroids, antibiotics and good sugar control in those with diabetes is going to be key in averting this deadly disease going forward,” says Dr Trupti Gilada, Infectious Disease specialist, Masina Hospital, Mumbai.
“No, there is no rise in the cases of mucormycosis among patients suffering from Omicron. Since most of the patients have mild to moderate symptoms and do not require immunomodulators such as steroids or high flow oxygen support during their treatment, the incidence is low,” Dr Charu Dutt Arora Consultant Physician and Infectious Disease Specialist Head, Ameri Health, Asian Hospital, Faridabad.