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The Black fungus, also known as mucormycosis, has been a pre-existing disease even before the advent of COVID-19, though very few numbers were reported annually. People who are immunocompromised are more vulnerable to developing the black fungus infection. The patients reporting mucormycosis as a post-covid complication are largely the ones who have immunosuppressing conditions like an organ transplant history, uncontrolled diabetes, and cancer. These health conditions have predisposed the patients to this infection, said Dr. S M Shuaib Zaidi, Senior Consultant, Surgical Oncology, Indraprastha Apollo Hospital, New Delhi.
Among cancer patients, mucormycosis most commonly affects haematological cancer or more commonly known as 'blood cancer' patients and the bone marrow transplant recipients, according to Dr. Zaidi.
"Patients receiving chemotherapy and advanced stage cancer patients are also at risk for mucormycosis. Anybody suffering from or having recently recovered from cancer, if experiencing any of the symptoms suggestive of 'black fungus' should consult an Oncologist without delay as it is always better to be safe than sorry," he added.
The Black fungus or mucormycosis is affecting COVID patients more due to prolonged administration of steroids and subsequent immunocompromised state of health. It is reported more in patients who have diabetes, renal failure, cancer or who have undergone kidney/liver transplant and in patients who have been administered steroids for a long time, according to Dr. Zaidi.
"The viruses, as part of their replication cycle, suppress the immune system leading to the immune system not being able to clear /fight any other form of bacteria or fungi. The most famous example of this is HIV, of course, which causes long-term immune suppression. But other viruses do this on a much shorter timescale i.e., the immune system is only slightly suppressed for a few days or weeks while the virus is there," he explained.
Patients suffering from the fungal infection typically have symptoms of stuffy and bleeding nose; swelling and pain in the eye; drooping of eyelids; blurred vision and in some cases loss of vision. There could be black patches of skin around the nose. Other possible symptoms include:
As Dr. Zaidi stated, patients who have been on immunosuppressant drugs due to cancer treatments or organ transplants are more susceptible to this fungal infection. Other factors are usage of immune suppressant drugs, people who have undergone organ transplant, and even in severe covid cases. The expert further elaborated on Mucormycosis infection in Covid-19 patients. He said:
"As studies and researches evolve, we might be able to elaborate on more concrete information," Dr. Zaidi noted.
Dr. Zaidi concluded: It is essential that people stay aware and concerned about mucormycosis. But not every covid patient is vulnerable to mucormycosis. Those who have been on immunosuppressant drugs and long-term steroids to protect them from any fatality need to be more cautious. People who have uncontrolled or unchecked diabetes and getting COVID care at home have been at more risk, as consumption of steroids to control COVID complexities has caused a spike in diabetes levels.