India is currently combating the second wave of Coronavirus and the medical fraternity in our country are not only concerned about this deadly contagious virus but also other complications that are being reported by the patients.

Also Read: Coronavirus: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment

One such lethal complication being observed in patients in India in recent times, who have tested positive for COVID-19 and are gradually recovering, is a fungal disease called Mucormycosis or black fungus. With hundreds of cases being reported in states like Gujarat, Bengaluru, Mumbai and Delhi, it has triggered an additional wave of panic among the general public.
Black Fungus

What Is Mucormycosis?

Mucormycosis, previously termed zygomycosis, is a rare fungal infection, instigated by the mucormycete mould, that occurs extensively in soil, leaves, decayed wood and putrefied manure. Besides darkening of skin, inflammation, redness, ulcers, fevers, this dangerous sickness can also invade the lungs, eyes and even the brain, proving to be fatal if left unattended. Therefore, it is crucial to understand the causative factors and prominent symptoms associated with Mucormycosis, to quickly identify any possible warning signs arising in both, COVID-19 patients and other individuals. These must be promptly conveyed to the healthcare professional so that timely medical treatment can be provided and the affected individual recovers completely.

Also Read: Fungal Eye Infections: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment

The official guidelines outlined by the Indian Council Of Medical Research (ICMR) and the Ministry Of Health And Family Welfare (MoHFW), for identifying symptoms and ensuring timely diagnosis, efficient management of patients developing mucormycosis while recuperating from COVID-19 are as follows:

Risk Factors:

Not all people who have contracted coronavirus infection and are on treatment for COVID-19 obtain mucormycosis. Certain individuals are more prone to getting affected by the fungal infection, such as:

  • People with diabetes mellitus who are unable to keep blood sugar levels within the normal range
  • Persons with comorbid conditions taking immunosuppressant steroid medications to manage pre-existing illnesses as well as COVID-19, over an extended length of time
  • Being treated in the Intensive Care Unit i.e. ICU wing of hospitals for a prolonged interval of time
  • Having a vulnerable immune system that is weakened owing to comorbidities such as previous organ transplant surgeries or cancer therapy procedures
  • Already taking prescription antifungal drugs to combat infections

Symptoms of Black Fungus:

In addition to constantly monitoring COVID-19 patients with the above-mentioned ailing conditions who are on treatment, doctors must also keep an eye out for these indications of mucormycosis:

  • Sinusitis, along with clogging of the nasal tract and bloody or blackish mucus emission from the nose
  • Pain on only one side of the face, cheekbones, with lack of sensation and bulging
  • Distinct blackish discolouration on the bridge of the nose
  • Prominent aching in teeth, jawbone, degrading of tooth structures
  • Hazy vision, with objects appearing blurred or in double, with eye pain
  • Abnormal blood clotting or thrombosis of tissues, along with skin injury and damage or necrosis of dermal cells
  • Further deterioration of respiratory functions, with chest pain, excess fluid build-up in lungs i.e. pleural effusion and coughing up blood or haemoptysis

How Is Mucormycosis Treated?

Once the diagnosis of mucormycosis is confirmed, then the immediate treatment strategy is to prescribe antifungal medications, to be taken either orally if the infection is still minor, or administered via injections in more invasive cases, to the patient. These powerful prescription drugs possess the ability to target the fungal specimens in the body and slow down their speed of spreading within the system, as well as completely curb their destructive activity.

The major factor that increases the efficacy of mucormycosis treatment is an accurate immediate diagnosis and providing urgent medical care by a team of specialists including a microbiologist, internal medicine expert, neurologist, ENT Specialist, ophthalmologist, dentist in maxillofacial procedures, plastic surgeon and biochemist. This guarantees reduced damage to bodily organs, thwarts fungal infection completely, thereby averting grave complications and fatal outcomes. It is advised to examine blood glucose levels even after the initially corona positive patient with diabetes mellitus has tested negative for COVID-19 and seek medical care at once if there is a sudden spike in blood sugar readings.

Furthermore, medicines may be given to treat other pre-existing sicknesses, such as diabetes, to alleviate its associated symptoms. In circumstances where serious damage has occurred in bodily tissues, surgical procedures are performed, to remove these fungal balls. Upon receiving all required remedial measures, the physician keeps a check on the patient, to ensure mucormycosis fungal infection does not recur and thereby guarantee effective treatment, total recovery of the patient.

How To Prevent Mucormycosis/Black Fungus?

Additionally, simple preventive measures go a long way in lowering the chances of acquiring mucormycosis post COVID-19 recovery, such as:

  • Ensuring personal hygiene by bathing and scrubbing the body thoroughly, particularly after returning home from work, working out or visiting neighbours, relatives, friends
  • Wearing face masks and face shields when going to dirty polluted environments such as construction sites
  • Making sure to don fully covered clothing of concealed shoes, long pants, long-sleeved shirts and gloves while coming in contact with soil, moss, manure, like in gardening activities