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BRAIN ATTACK:

Know Everything About Black Fungus

By Medical Expert Team

Jun 08 , 2021 | 5 min read

9

Everything You Need to Know About Mucormycosis or Black Fungus - How it is Affecting Covid-19 Patients?

The B.1.617 variant of the SARS-COVID-19 virus in India is a global concern. Scientists believe that this variant could drastically affect the body’s immune system, weakening its response, thereby increasing its vulnerability to fungal infections. One particular concern in COVID-19 recovered patients is an infection called Mucormycosis or Black Fungus. India has already registered many deaths due to Black Fungus in patients recovering from compromised immune systems. The numbers are expected to increase in the coming weeks. It is important that the patients are aware of this disease, and learn to recognise the symptoms. 

What is Black Fungus or Mucormycosis?

Mucormycosis or Black Fungus is a rare fungal infection caused by a group of fungi called ‘mucormycetes.’ They commonly exist in the environment, especially in animal dung, compost, soil, leaves, and rotting produce. These fungi can enter the body through exposed wounds in the skin, inhaling, and breathing. Once they enter the body, these fungi have the potential to affect the brain, skin, lungs, and sinuses. 

Why is it Occurring in Covid-19 Patients?

Mucormycosis fungal infection typically occurs in people with health problems which make them immunocompromised, such as Covid-19. Essentially, patients who take medicines with potential to lower the ability of the immune system to fight infection are prone to suffering from Black Fungus. In the case of Covid-19, the virus finds a host in a weakened immune system as the body is vulnerable to infection. So, people recovering from Covid-19 are at a higher risk of suffering from Black Fungus or Mucormycosis.

  • At the time of writing this content, India had already reported over 11,000 cases of Mucormycosis
  • 8 out of 40 Covid-19 survivors in Surat, Gujarat, who developed Mucormycosis lost their eyesight
  • Maharashtra reported 2,000 cases of Black Fungus - all were Covid-19 survivors, with 8 resulting in death
  • Doctors believe that there is a connection with the steroids used for treating Covid-19
  • Covid survivors with Diabetes are at particular risk so you should get your prediabetes treatment done before suffering from diabetes.

Who Gets Affected by Black Fungus?

The infection can affect anyone irrespective of their age. While the majority of people will come in contact with this fungus at some point in their lives, it is the individuals with a weak immune systems who are affected the most. If you have a particular disease and are taking medications that weaken your immune system, you are a potential target of Black Fungus.

The following health conditions strengthen the possibility of getting infected by Mucormycosis:

  • Covid-19
  • AIDS or HIV
  • Diabetes
  • Stem cell transplant
  • Organ transplant
  • Cancer
  • Injected drug use
  • Long-term steroid use
  • Bad health from poor nutrition
  • High levels of iron in your body
  • Low birth weight or premature birth
  • Uneven levels of acids in your body

Those affected with COVID and 1 or more comorbidities mentioned above are at a much greater risk of developing this disease. 

Symptoms of Black Fungus

There are different types of Black Fungus, including cutaneous (skin) mucormycosis, gastrointestinal mucormycosis, pulmonary (lung) mucormycosis, and rhinocerebral (brain and sinus) mucormycosis. Therefore, Mucormycosis symptoms will depend on where in your body the fungi are germinating.

Respiratory-related black fungus symptoms:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Sinus or nasal pain and congestion
  • Chest pain
  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Swelling on one side of the face

Skin-related black fungus symptoms:

  • Ulcers
  • Blisters
  • Tenderness, swelling, redness
  • Blackened skin tissue
  • Black lesions on the inside of the mouth or bridge of your nose

Gastrointestinal-related black fungus symptoms:

  • Diarrhea
  • Blood in your stool
  • Gastrointestinal bleeding
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Belly pain

What Causes Mucormycosis?

Mucormycosis is a rare but serious fungal infection. These fungi are angioinvasive, meaning they attack the surrounding blood vessels and damage them, causing tissue necrosis and even death. The use of steroid drugs for treating Covid-19 patients set the stage for mucormycosis. While steroids reduce inflammation, they negatively affect your body’s ability to fight infection.

Prevention of Black Fungus

The Black Fungus can enter your body as you breathe or come in contact with rotting produce. Please note that Black Fungus, unlike Covid-19, is not contagious. You can come in contact with the person having the fungal infection without any worries.

However, there are a few things to keep in mind to ensure Mucormycosis prevention.

  • Always wear a face mask when you are in areas with a lot of soil and dust. Stay away from excavation and construction sites
  • People with weakened immune should avoid activities like gardening and yard work that involves coming in contact with compost piles, soil, and dust
  • Stay away from infected water and fix up water-damaged areas in your house

Diagnosis

If you experience any of the symptoms mentioned above, you are advised to visit your doctor as soon as possible. The doctor will check your medical history and give you a physical exam. In most cases, Black Fungus is diagnosed by taking a sample of the fluid from your nose and sending it to the lab to test it. The doctor may also order tissue biopsy, MRI scan, and CT scan to diagnose mucormycosis.

Black Fungus Treatment

Black Fungus treatment usually includes antifungal medications. Medications like Posaconazole, Isavuconazole, and Amphotericin B can stop the growth of the fungus and bring the infection under control until the fungus is completely destroyed. In severe cases, surgery is done to remove dead or infected tissues. Surgery can lead to permanent damage, both mentally and physically, as it involves removing parts of the nose and eyes.

 

FAQs

How serious is Black Fungus?

If not detected and treated early, Black Fungus can lead to permanent eye damage (blindness), nerve damage, and blood clots, which can be life-threatening. According to CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), Black Fungus is fatal as it has a mortality rate of 54%. 

Does Black Fungus affect only Covid patients?

Though Black Fungus has come into the public’s notice because of Covid-19, it has been around for a long time. If you are diabetic, have cancer, have undergone surgery, or are taking steroids for treatment, you are prone to get affected by black fungus.

Is there a cure for black fungus?

Black Fungus can be treated using antifungal medications. However, in severe cases where the infection has consumed a particular area in your body, it has to be surgically removed. It can be disfiguring.

Can black fungus be treated at home?

The antifungal medications used to treat mucormycosis cannot be purchased from medical stores. However, a doctor’s prescription is required. Surgical intervention cannot be done at home.

Can Black Fungus be detected in a blood test?

Unfortunately, there are no blood-based tests to detect Black Fungus. The doctor may perform imaging testing or take a sample of your nose fluid for diagnosis.

Which injection is used for black fungus?

Posaconazole, Isavuconazole, and Amphotericin B are the antifungal injections used to treat black fungus. Amphotericin B is currently the preferred choice for doctors. They are given to you through a vein. To treat an infected person, as many as 20 vials of Amphotericin B may be required. Only a doctor can recommend the treatment.  


Written and Verified by:

Medical Expert Team

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