‘Nightmare inside a pandemic’: Black fungus killer strikes down recovering Covid patients

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The looming new health crisis has been described as “a nightmare inside a pandemic”. Indian doctors are reporting an influx in cases of mucormycosis among people recovering from Covid-19. The very rare infection, also known as the “black fungus”, is normally caused by exposure to mucor mould.

It affects the sinuses, the brain and lungs and is particularly lethal to diabetics and those with compromised immune systems.

The rise in “black fungus” infections in India is thought to be connected to the use of steroids in seriously ill Covid patients.

Certain steroids have been found to be effective in treating those with advanced Covid symptoms.

They reduce inflammation in the lungs, as well as preventing the body’s immune system from going into overdrive when fighting off the virus.

However, steroids can reduce immunity and increase blood sugar levels in both diabetics and non-diabetic Covid patients.

Doctors believe that this drop in immunity could be triggering the explosion in murcomycosis cases.

Dr Akshay Nair, a Mumbai-based eye surgeon, told the BBC’s Soutik Biswas: “Diabetes lowers the body’s immune defences, coronavirus exacerbates it, and then steroids which help fight Covid-19 act like fuel to the fire.”

He said that in April alone he had treated 40 patients suffering from the fungal infection.

He added that he had come across just 10 cases overall in the past two years before the outbreak of the pandemic.

Dr Renuka Bradoo from Mumbai’s Sion hospital also reported 24 incidents of the infection within the past two months.

Normally, the head of the hospital’s ear, nose and throat department would treat six cases a year.

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She said that most of her patients were middle-aged diabetics who developed the infection two weeks after recovering from Covid-19.

“We are already seeing two to three cases a week here,” she explained.

“It’s a nightmare inside a pandemic.”

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