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What is Black Fungus?

Topics covered are:
– About Black Fungus
– Cause of Fungal Infection
– Who are at risk?
– Mucormycosis Types
– Transmission
– Symptoms
– Diagnosis and Testing
– Treatment
– Prevention and Cure
– Facts about Mucormycetes

Doctors have witnessed increased cases of Covid-19 triggered Mucormycosis, recently. COVID-19 patients immunity gets reduced which makes them more susceptible to this fungal infection.

Mucormycosis is also known as Black Fungus or Zygomycosis.

It is said that if anyone is recovered from coronavirus and are experiencing a little soreness in eyes or nose obstruction, then people should not ignore it.

The prestigious doctors at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital in New Delhi have identified new cases of fungal infection triggered by COVID-19. It causes loss of eyesight, affect the nose, jaw-bone or even death if left untreated. It can also lead to 50% mortality when it affects the brain in about fifteen days.

This fungal infection is associated with a rare killer fungus known as Mucor which exists in environment. This fungus causes a disease named as Mucormycosis or Black Fungus, previously called as zygomycosis or we can say that it is a serious but rare fungal infection caused by a group of molds called mucormycetes.

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How this fungal infection is caused?

It is nothing but a kind of fungal infection caused by moulds known as mucormycetes which exists in the environment. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of the United States, these molds live throughout the environment. When any one comes in contact with the fungal spores in the environment then he or she get affected by mucormycosis.

Who are at risk?

It is said that those who are taking medicines for any specific kind of illness and those people who have recovered from coronavirus disease are at high risk of this killer fungus. Also, people with diabetes or kidney problems are at higher risk.

According to Dr Manish Munjal, the Senior ENT surgeon at the Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, “The frequency with which we are witnessing the occurrence of Covid triggered mucormycosis with high morbidity and mortality is alarming. Early clinical suspicion on symptoms such as nose obstruction, swelling in the eye or cheeks, and black dry crusts in the nose should immediately prompt a biopsy and start of the antifungal therapy as early as possible.”

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Mucormycosis Types

1. Gastrointestinal Mucormycosis: It is mostly found in young children rather than adults mainly premature and low birth weight infants less than 1 month of age, who are taking antibiotics, or faced surgery or in medications due to which the ability of the body to fight with germs and sickness gets lowered.

2. Rhinocerebral (Sinus and Brain) Mucormycosis: The infection is in the Sinus that can spread to the brain. It is commonly found in those people who are suffering from uncontrolled diabetes and who had a kidney transplant.

3. Cutaneous (Skin) Mucormycosis: When fungi enters a body due to break in the skin like after surgery, a burn, or other types of skin trauma, it is caused. It is most common in those people who do not have weakened immune system.

4. Pulmonary (Lung) Mucormycosis: In cancer patients it is most common type of mucormycosis and also in peole who have had an organ transplant or a stem cell transplant.

5. Disseminated Mucormycosis: When an infection spreads through bloodstream to affect another part of the body it occurs. This infection most commonly affects the brain but can also affect other organs like spleen, heart and skin.

How is it transmitted?

It can be transmitted through inhalation, inoculation or ingestion of spores from the environment. It does not  spread between people or between people and animals. It hasbeen seen and sicussed above that it usually occurs in people who have health problems or take medicines that lowers the ability of the body to fight with germs and sickness.

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What are its symptoms?

Common symptoms are

– One-sided facial swelling

– Headache

– Nasal or sinus congestion

– Black lesions on nasal bridge or upper inside of the mouth that quickly becomes more severe

– Fever

– Loss of eyesight

– Abdominal pain

– Gastrointestinal bleeding

– Nausea

Sometimes it is difficult to know about the symptoms that are related to mucormycosis because disseminated mucormycosis typically occurs in people who are already sick from other medical conditions. Patients with disseminated infection in the brain can develop mental status changes or coma.

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How it can be diagnosed or tested?

Healthcare providers when diagnose mucormycosis conisder medical history, symptoms, physical examinations, and laboratory tests.

If suspected with an infection then healthcare providers collect a sample of fluid from the respiratory system or may perform a tissue biopsy.

What is the treatment?

With some antifungal medicine a patient need to be treated to prevent from mucormycosis and other mold infections.

Also, mucormycosis requires surgery to cut away the infected tissue.

What is the prevention and cure?

To prevent from mucormycosis, there is no vaccine. Therefore, it is difficult to avoid breathing in fungal spores because the fungi are common in the environment.

Some ways may be there to lower the chances of developing mucormycosis for those people who have weakened immune systems. These can be avoid going in areas with a lot of dust including construction or excavation sites, avoiding direct contact with water-damaged buildings and flood water after hurricanes and natural disasters and avoiding activities that involve close contact to soil.

If early detected then loss of eyesight, nose or jaw through clinical intervention can be prevented.

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Some facts about Mucormycetes

They are group of fungi that cause mucormycosis. Ther are present throughout the environment, mainly in soil and in association with decaying organic matter, like leaves, compost piles, and animal dung.

The most common types of fungi that cause mucormycosis are Rhizopus species and Mucor species.

More commonly they are found in soil than in air, and in summer and fall than in winter or spring.

To those people these fungi are not harmful who have

These fungi are not harmful to most people but for those people they are who have weakened immune systems. Also,  breathing in micromycetes spores can cause an infection.

Daily Gist of ‘The Hindu’, ‘PIB’, ‘Indian Express’ and Other Newspapers: 17 December, 2020

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