Doctors in India have recorded an alarming rise of an aggressive, hard-to-treat fungal infection known as Mucormycosis.
The current increase in infections has been reported in patients infected with COVID-19 and those who have recovered from the disease.
What Is Mucormycosis?
Mucormycosis (previously called Zygomycosis) is a rare but serious fungal infection caused by a group of moulds called mucormycetes. These moulds live throughout the environment, particularly in soil and in decaying organic matter, such as leaves, compost piles, or rotten wood according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Mucormycosis mainly affects people who have health problems or take medicines that lower the body’s ability to fight germs and sickness.
Medical experts say mucormycosis is an “opportunistic infection” – it latches on to people who are battling illnesses or are on medications that lower the body’s ability to fight infections.
Patients with COVID-19 have weak immunity and a large number of them are put on steroids in order to control a hyperimmune response, thus making them susceptible to other fungal infections such as mucormycosis, according to experts.
The majority of mucormycosis infections have been seen in COVID-19 patients with diabetes or those with underlying and undetected high blood sugar.
While it most commonly affects the sinuses or the lungs after inhaling fungal spores from the air, It can also occur on the skin after a cut, burn, or other type of skin injury.
The fast-spreading fungus can eat into large portions of skin tissues within as a month or less.
Doctors in India have revealed that before the coronavirus, the cases of Mucormycosis was not more than one case in a week but since the pandemic, cases have moved to as much as 25 cases in a week.
The western state of Maharashtra, home to Mumbai, has recorded about 2,000 cases and eight fatalities due to mucormycosis so far.
The state’s health minister Rajesh Tope has announced the setting up of special wards in hospitals to treat the fungal disease.
Is it spreading?
Doctors in India’s capital New Delhi have also started witnessing a spurt in cases of mucormycosis too.
The city, home to nearly 20 million people, is reeling under a vicious second wave of COVID-19, with doctors anticipating a larger outbreak of fungal infections.
“We are seeing two to three times higher numbers of mucormycosis cases,” said Dr Neha Gupta, an internal medicine and infectious disease specialist at Medanta Hospital in Gurugram, a suburb of the Indian capital.
She said patients are coming in with symptoms such as loose or falling teeth, severe facial pain and facial swelling.