Black Fungus Disease and COVID-19

In early May, a surge in cases of mucormycosis, a rare and potentially deadly infection also known as black fungus, is affecting India — a country already experiencing a severe rise in COVID-19 cases.

This potentially fatal fungal infection is likely increasing due to the surge of people with COVID-19. Many of those being infected are coronavirus patients, or those who have recently recovered from Covid-19, whose immune systems have been weakened by the virus or who have underlying conditions — most notably diabetes.

In the past few weeks, more than 9,000 cases of the fungus have been reported, according to the Associated Press. And medication to treat it is running low.

Here’s what we know about black fungus.

How do you get it?

According to the CDC , mucormycosis is caused by a group of molds called mucormycetes, which are found in soil and organic matter, like compost piles. It is not contagious and does not spread from person to person.

These fungi aren’t harmful to most people. The infection typically affects people with health problems (like COVID-19) or those who take medicines that can lower the immune system’s ability to fight infection.

Symptoms of sinus and brain mucormycosis include facial swelling, nasal congestion, and headache. If it makes it to the lungs, symptoms include fever, cough, and shortness of breath.

Symptoms of Mucormycosis

The symptoms of mucormycosis depend on where in the body the fungus is growing. 1,4 Contact your healthcare provider if you have symptoms that you think are related to mucormycosis.

Symptoms of rhinocerebral (sinus and brain) mucormycosis include:

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

Symptoms of pulmonary (lung) mucormycosis include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath

Symptoms of Cutaneous mucormycosis include:

Cutaneous (skin) mucormycosis can look like blisters or ulcers, and the infected area may turn black. Other symptoms include pain, warmth, excessive redness, or swelling around a wound.

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 develop mental status changes or coma.

Immunocompromised people are more susceptible to infection — including Covid-19 patients, diabetic patients, people who take steroids, and those with other comorbidities like cancer or organ transplants.

Covid patients are particularly susceptible because not only does the virus affect their immune system — treatment drugs can also suppress their immune response.

The fungus takes the window of opportunity, invades the body. This body has a small opening because of Covid, because of the sugars (high glucose levels), because of the antibiotics- because of so many other things, (black fungus) gets a foothold.

How do you treat it?

Infections must be treated with prescription antifungal medicine. The standard treatment is amphotericin B, which Dr. Gluckman calls “a pretty toxic drug,” but one that’s necessary to minimize the fungus’ spread.

Patients may need up to six weeks of anti-fungal medicine to recover. Their recovery depends on how early the disease was diagnosed and treated.

Often, surgery is required to cut away dead or infected tissue. In some patients, this may result in loss of upper jaw or sometimes even the eye.

Sunday, May 30, 2021


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