Rare, Deadly 'Black Fungus' Stalking Covid-19 Patients in Delhi: What You Need to Know

·4-min read

Doctors at a medical facility in Delhi have reported multiple cases of a deadly fungal infection in patients, which they claim was triggered by Covid-19. The fungal infection, called mucormycosis, has caused many of the patients to lose their eyesight.

Physicians at the Sir Ganga Ram hospital in Delhi have diagnosed mucormycosis in over 12 patients. It can lead to loss of eyesight, affects the nose and jaw bone and can also lead to 50% mortality when it affects the brain in about fifteen days.

[q]What is happening in Delhi?[/q]

[ans]In the last 15 days, ENT surgeons at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital (SGRH) have seen 13 cases of "COVID-19-triggered mucormycosis".

This alarming affliction, although rare, is not new. What is new is COVID-19 triggering mucormycosis, they said. Black Fungus or mucormycosis has been a cause of disease and death of patients in transplants, and ICU and immunodeficient individuals since long. However, it is the rapid increase in the numbers seen in unsuspected recovering COVID-19 patients that is causing the grave concern, the SGRH said in a statement.

"In the last 15 days, ENT surgeons have seen 13 cases of COVID-19-triggered mucormycosis in over 50 per cent patients, with loss of eyesight, and removal of nose and jaw bone needed," it said. Mortality is currently being seen in the range of 50 per cent (five patients), with certain deaths when there is involvement of brain, the hospital authorities said.[/ans]

[q]What is Mucormycosis?[/q]

[ans]It is also known as zygomycosis. According to the CDC (Centre for Diseases Control and Prevention), this rare but critical fungal infection is caused by a group of molds known as mucormycetes. These molds are present naturally in the environment. However, it affects humans when the body's immunity system has been weakened and it is vulnerable. It affects the lungs and the sinuses following inhalation of fungal spores from the air. The fungus can also enter the body through open wounds or cuts.

"These fungi aren’t harmful to most people. However, for people who have weakened immune systems, breathing in mucormycete spores can cause an infection in the lungs or sinuses which can spread to other parts of the body," the CDC writes.

The CDC also clarifies that Mucormycosis is not contagious. That means, it cannot transmit between people and animals. "Early recognition, diagnosis, and prompt administration of appropriate antifungal treatment are important for improving outcomes for patients with mucormycosis," the CDC also states. [/ans]

[q]What is the latest update on the patients in Delhi?[/q]

[ans]In Delhi, doctors had to do these resections in about 10 patients over the last fortnight, with "about 50 per cent losing their eyesight permanently". Five of these patients required critical care support due to associated complications. There also have been five mortalities so far in this subgroup, the statement said. According to Manish Munjal, senior ENT surgeon, at the hospital, The frequency with which we are witnessing the occurrence of COVID-19-triggered mucormycosis with high morbidity and mortality has never been seen before and is shocking and alarming."

Varun Rai, consultant ENT surgeon at SGRH said, "Early clinical suspicion on symptoms such as nose obstruction, swelling in the eye or cheeks, and black dry crusts in the nose should immediately prompt the conduct of a biopsy in the OPD and start of the antifungal therapy as early as possible."

A report in Times Now also provides a case study of one of the Delhi patients, as explained by the SGRH medical professionals.

A 32-year-old man from West Delhi had contracted Covid-19 and had been hospitalised. He had been discharged with a negative test after seven days. But he had a nagging obstruction in his left nose which eventually led to his eye swelling up in 2 days.

He sought medical care again and it was diagnosed that he had caught Mucormycosis. When he was brought to the hospital, his vision had already started deteriorating and he was in a partially disoriented state because his left side had started going numb.

Diagnostic tests revealed that the fungus had already affected his sinuses, nose and jaw bones and had also made its way to the brain. The doctors at the hospital managed to save his life but he is still on life support medication. SGRH doctors said that he will be discharged soon. [/ans]

[q]Has it been reported in other cities?[/q]

[ans]Yes, in Ahmedabad and Bengaluru, for starters. In Ahmedabad, Mucormycosis was reported in five patients who were all either suffering from coronavirus or had recently recovered from it. According to a report in Times of India, two of these five died while two among the survivors lost their eyesight.

According to media reports, in Bengaluru too, Mucormycosis was reported in four patients - all linked to Covid-19. Two of these patients died. [/ans]

(With inputs from PTI)

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