In India, patients who have recovered from COVID-19 are increasingly being detected with Mucormycosis or black fungus. This is a rare fungal infection caused by a group of fungi called mucormycetes, commonly found in the environment. Though this condition is rare and attacks individuals with compromised immune systems, not treating it in time can be potentially life-threatening. This is why recovering COVID-19 patients have been falling prey to this fungal infection. COVID-19 patients with uncontrolled diabetes and weaker immune systems are particularly at a higher risk of developing this condition.
Common Mucormycosis Symptoms
Mucormycosis occurs when a person inhales the fungal spores in the air. These spores can be found both outdoors and indoors, especially in hospital settings. Mucormycosis is not a contagious disease and does not spread from an infected person or animal.
The common signs and symptoms of mucormycosis depend on the part of the body where the fungus is growing. The symptoms of mucormycosis that affect the sinus and the brain are:
- Swelling on one side of the face.
- Nasal and sinus congestion.
- Blackish discolouration on the nose bridge and palate; scabbing on the nose may also be seen.
- Swelling in the eyes and nose.
- Blurry or double vision.
The symptoms of mucormycosis that affect the lungs include:
- Shortness of breath.
- Worsening of respiratory symptoms, also common in COVID-19.
- Chest pain
Other symptoms of mucormycosis that affect the skin and the patient’s gastrointestinal system include:
- Pain in the abdominal region.
- Blisters or ulcers on the skin, followed by the infected area turning black.
- Redness or swelling around the wound.
- Sputum in the blood.
As mentioned earlier, mucormycosis is a rare fungal infection in humans. However, one may be at a high risk of contracting this disease in the following conditions:
- Uncontrolled diabetes.
- Under steroid medications, as in the case of Covid-19, tend to suppress your immune system (especially long-term steroid use).
- Prolonged ICU stay.
- Neutropenia (low white blood cells).
- Organ transplants and stem cell transplants.
- Iron overload in the body.
- When the body is recovering from a surgery, wound or burn.
Treatment for Mucormycosis
The treatment for mucormycosis needs to be quick and aggressive to reduce the effects of the disease. Prompt action reduces the amount of tissue damage and helps reverse the existing damage. The usual course of treatment includes medical and/or surgical treatments and this depends on the severity of the infection and the patient’s overall health condition.
The treatment for mucormycosis may include:
- Surgical debridement of the infected area.
- Antifungal medications like Amphotericin B (intravenous) to slow the spread of the infection.
- Other antifungals, like Posaconazole or Isavuconazole, to treat the condition,
- Along with these medications, a patient’s underlying condition like uncontrolled diabetes must be brought under control.
- Steroid medications are stopped for patients as they allow the fungus to take over the body’s immune system.
- Long-term antifungal treatment to bring the disease under control.
Due to the complicated nature of mucormycosis, its treatment usually requires a team of specialists, surgeons and microbiologists. It is recommended that patients do not try self-medicating for the disease at home.
How to prevent it?
Mucormycosis has a predilection for patients with comorbidities, making a few groups more vulnerable than others.
Here are a few ways by which you can prevent mucormycosis in the post-COVID-19 scenario in a patient:
- The most effective way of preventing the black fungus infection is by keeping your blood sugar levels under control (as suggested by ICMR).
- Avoid self-medication with steroids without consulting a doctor.
- If oxygen therapy is provided to a patient via a humidifier, ensure clean, sterile water is used at all times.
- If you suspect mucormycosis, immediately consult with an ENT specialist, an ophthalmologist or any doctor treating these conditions.
- If you suffer from any comorbidities, continue taking your medications.
- Avoid going outdoors in places like water-damaged buildings.
- Practise good skin hygiene.
- Avoid contact with soil, manure or moss if you are recovering or have just recovered from COVID-19.
As stated above, mucormycosis is a very rare disease. It rarely affects a healthy individual. Hence, it is important to consult your doctor if you suspect a mucormycosis infection. If you or anyone you know is recovering or has recently recovered from COVID-19, closely follow the signs and symptoms of mucormycosis.
The key to effective treatment of mucormycosis is prompt detection, accurate diagnosis and immediate and aggressive treatment. Patients suffering from COVID-19 or those just recovering must practise impeccable personal hygiene to prevent mucormycosis.
Disclaimer: The information included at this site is for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional. Because of unique individual needs, the reader should consult their physician to determine the appropriateness of the information for the reader’s situation.