Mucormycosis: Dispelling Common Myths About The Black Fungus

As the nation continues to grapple through the ferocious second wave of Covid-19, the recent rise in black fungus cases has sent created panic. Also known as mucormycosis, the disease has forced clinicians and scientists to worry about the excessive use of steroids in the treatment of COVID-19. Also Read – Alert Night Owls! Proper Sleep-Wake Behavior Helps Deal With Mental Health Disorders During Covid-19

The black fungus infection was recently notified as a disease under the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 in several states across India, following an extreme spike in the number of cases. The country has so far witnessed more than 40,000 cases but what has caught the attention is that over 85% of the people who were diagnosed with the black fungus infection had COVID-19. In this article, we shall explore a little deeper the recent phenomenon of black fungus and try to bust some myths around it. Also Read – Does COVID-19 Infection In Pregnant Women Affect The Baby? Govt Issues Fresh Vaccination Guidelines

What Is Mucormycosis?

Previously called Zygomycosis, mucormycosis or black fungus is a fungal infection that occurs when humans inhale the fungus called mucor whose spores are already present in the soil and organic matter, including animal dung, vegetable dust, leaves, and so on. The infection essentially results in the darkening of the skin of the affected areas. These spores are more common in summer and monsoon than in winter. Most people come in contact with microscopic fungal spores every day, so it’s probably impossible to completely avoid exposure to the fungus. Also Read – COVID-19 Live Updates: Yogi Adityanath Issues Fresh Guidelines To Curb The Spread Of Delta+ Variant

The rise in fungal infection cases in severe COVID-19 has been linked to the overuse of steroids (such as dexamethasone), which is used in the treatment of coronavirus. Such steroids can compromise the immune system after prolonged use. It has also been associated with the use of ventilators in COVID patients in ICUs due to exposure of airways to moisture and humidity.

Common symptoms of the black fungus include one-sided facial swelling, nasal blockage, nasal blood discharge, chest pain, headache, toothache, loosening of teeth, blurred vision or vision loss, pain and inflammation in the eyes, nose, and jaws. It usually affects the sinuses, the lungs and the brain but can also be life-threatening in people with diabetes or with a compromised immune system, including cancer patients or people with AIDS/HIV.  Some other risk factors may also include lymphoma, organ transplant, iron overload, and long-term use of steroids or immunosuppressants. The condition can be diagnosed using CT scans, biopsy or blood tests.

Debunking Some Myths

Recently a lot of misconceptions and misunderstandings have cropped up about fungal infection. Let us understand those in more detail.

Myth 1: Human-To-Human Transmission Is Possible

Firstly, the infection is not transmissible between humans but spread through fungal spores already present in the environment. People come in contact with these spores every day. In general, it is very rare in healthy individuals, but certain risk factors like diabetes, cancer, compromised immune system, HIV can increase the risk of developing an infection.

Myth 2: This Fungal Infection Cannot Be Treated

Also, the decolouration of skin in the face, eyes, jaws, and nose occurs because of the death of normal tissues. Following the infection, the blood flow gets stopped in the affected areas, resulting in necrotic or dead tissue and, hence, blackish lesions.

We must know that this infection is treatable with the antifungal drug, amphotericin B and surgical debridement if needed. The clinicians try to manage the underlying causes, including controlling blood sugar levels, reducing steroid use and so on to reduce the severity of infection. Additionally, wearing a mask in dusty areas, avoiding exposure to the garden soil or vegetable compost during outdoor activities in the high-risk category can work well as preventive measures.

Myth 3: Raw Vegetables And Onion Peels Transmit The Fungal Infection

Raw vegetables or onion peels do not spread or transmit this fungal infection, and neither consuming raw fruits and vegetables cause the condition. One needs to be aware of the prevailing conditions and also preferably maintain oral hygiene by sanitizing the oxygen cylinder, change the water regularly or sanitize humidifiers in cases of COVID related oxygen therapy and other support-based treatments.

General awareness and sanitation coupled with a clear understanding of the black fungus will help us in educating and safeguarding ourselves from both the fungal infections and the associated myths.

(This article is contributed by Dr Chirayu Padhiar, Senior Medical Director,LifeCell International Pvt Ltd.)

Published : June 30, 2021 9:00 am | Updated:June 30, 2021 9:01 am


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