A number of Covid patients, including those recovering from the disease, at an Ahmedabad hospital have been diagnosed with a fungal infection – mucormycosis, or black fungus, which can be fatal for transplant recipients, people in ICU or those have long-term immunodeficiency concerns.
“There’s been a rise in cases of mucormycosis in Covid patients for the last 15-20 days. Currently, 67 patients are in the ENT ward alone. Of which, 45 are yet to undergo surgery. We’re conducting 5-7 operations daily,” said Dr Patel.
News of black fungal infections from Ahmedabad comes days after doctors at a leading Delhi hospital told news agency PTI “we are seeing a rise again in this dangerous fungal infection”.
“In the last two days, we have admitted six cases of mucormycosis. Last year this infection caused a high mortality with many suffering from loss of eyesight and removal of nose and jaw bone,” Dr Manish Munjal, a senior ENT surgeon at Delhi’s Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, said on Thursday.
Dr Ajay Swaroop, Chairman of the hospital’s ENT department, said the use of steroids in treating COVID-19 patients, coupled with the fact that many coronavirus patients have diabetes, could be one reason for the increase in the number of black fungus cases.
On Saturday AIIMS chief Dr Randeep Guleria, while speaking to media, agreed with that statement.
Dr Guleria said “unjustified” high dosage of some of the drugs given to Covid patients – such as steroids – could “further decrease your immune system.. . you are prone to secondary infections”.
“Because of Covid your immunity comes down and you are more prone to secondary bacterial and fungal infection, or opportunistic infections. Some of the drugs we give, at levels which are not justified, pre-disposes (one) to these fungal infections,” he said.
“If we are getting very high dose steroids for a long time, then you’re immunity is low… and if you have diabetes or certain other conditions that further decrease your immune system, then you are prone to getting a secondary infection which could be a fungal infection,” he added.
Niti Aayog member (Health) V K Paul told on Friday said there is “no big outbreak” of mucormycosis in the country and the disease mostly ails patients with a pre-existing condition like diabetes. Diabetics who have been subjected to immunosuppressive medicines during Covid-19 treatment or have cancer run the risk of contracting it.
“It, to a large extent, is happening to people who have diabetes. It is very uncommon in those who are not diabetic. There is no big outbreak and we are monitoring it,” Paul said at the press briefing.
“Mucormycosis attacks people with uncontrolled sugar. Other than that, if the diabetes patient is taking immunosuppressive medicines, steroids, or has cancer, then the impact of mucormycosis is more on that person. If these patients are exposed to wet surfaces, then the chances of getting this disease increases,” he added.
India is struggling to fight a devastating second wave of coronavirus infections that have left an already battered healthcare system on its knees. This morning over four lakh new cases were reported in 24 hours – for the second day running.
Hospital beds, medicines and oxygen are in short supply, and doctors across the country are both overworked and traumatised, as the country battles the Covid crisis.