What is Known as a Black fungus?
Black fungus is a kind of infection, also known as ‘ Mucormycosis’. Although its causes are increasing in India day by day it is a rare kind of infection, causes when one comes in contact with a fungus. It is to be believed that it affects 1 in 10,00,000 people. As the black fungus is a rare infection, it’s hard to tell the exact mortality rate, but it can be ranging from 46 – 96 %, depending upon the severity of the patient. Still, It has an overall mortality rate of 50 %.
What is the name of the fungus which causes Mucormycosis or Black fungus?
Mucormycosis is an extensively increasing and incursive fungal infection, caused by a group of molds, called mucormycosis. This mucormycosis is typically found in soil, decaying organic matters.
When it becomes life-threatening?
Black fungus or Mucormycosis potentially becomes life-threatening in diabetic patients and in those who are severely immunocompromised.
As we all know, India is fighting COVID – 19 disease nowadays. The cases are increasing day by day and this Black Fungus disease will surely be going to add more problems, not only for the citizens of India but also for medical staff and doctors.
Surprisingly, over the last 10 years; there was a handful of cases of black fungus in India. But due to COVID – 19, and the steroids used to treat COVID – 19 patients make them weak, and hence there is a sudden explode of black fungus-infected cases.
In case, if your infection starts spreading from one part to the other of the body, then the fungus can affect the heart and spleen along with another part of the body. In severe cases, it may affect one’s mental health, can even lead to coma. That’s why it is more deadly than it seems.
Why it is called ‘ Black fungus’?
Black fungus is the common name of Mucormycosis. It is called so because blackening is one of the characteristics of this disease.
Symptoms of Black fungus we know so far:
According to Dr. Shweta Budyal, senior consultant of Fortis Hospital; Mucormycosis frequently infects the sinus, brain, and lungs. The fungus can also affect the other areas of the body such as the gastrointestinal tract, skin, and other organ systems of the body. The most common parts that get affected by black fungus are the brain and oral cavity.
According to Dr. Shweta Budyal, the symptoms can be shown by black fungus are as follows:
- Blurred or double vision with pain
- Chest pain
- Worsening of respiratory systems
- Sinusitis — nasal blockage or congestion
- Loosening of teeth, jaw involvement
- Blackish or bloody nasal discharge
- Cheekbone pain
- One-sided facial pain
- Swelling or numbness of face or jaw
- Blackish discoloration over the bridge of nose /palate
- Pleural infusion
- Necrotic skin lesion
- One-sided headache
- Blood in your stool
- Abdominal pain
- Blistered and red skin
Although, it may possible that a person infected by black fungus suffers only a few symptoms; depending upon the infected organ or area. For example,
If a person is suffering sinus or brain ( rhino cerebral mucormycosis), he or she may have symptoms like headache, fever, one-sided – facial swelling, and nasal or sinus congestion.
If one’s lungs got affected by black fungus, he or she can have symptoms such as chest pain, cough, and shortness of breath.
Whereas, if a black fungus attacked one’s digestive systems, then he or she can experience abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and gastrointestinal bleeding.
How does one catch Black fungus?
Black fungus is very common and can be found on rotten vegetables mostly. But, its disease or infection is quite rare. This mucormycosis or black fungus can easily enter one’s body through a cut, burn, or other types of skin trauma. And fungal spore floating in the environment is also capable of making anyone infected by black fungus. When one comes in contact with the fungus, it can easily enter into one’s body through the sinus, nose, or lungs. That’s why, sinus, lungs, and nose are the most commonly infected parts of this disease.
If one gets affected by black fungus through the skin, then it causes local infections only. Which maybe not as deadly as the other one. Because, if the fungus enters through the sinus, nose, or lungs, then it can broadly impact one’s brain, eventually leading to a fatal situation.
It is not spreadable from person to person, but the environment.
Who is more likely to get infected?
People in an extreme immunocompromised state and COVID – 19 affected individuals are most likely to get infected with black fungus. Diabetics patients are also in the claw of the disease. To prevent this disease, diabetic patients need to check their sugar levels from time to time and make sure to keep the sugar level under control.
Another reason that makes diabetic patients more vulnerable to catch this disease is that the treatment of COVID – 19 includes the use of steroids, which results in a shoot-up of sugar levels. With this, physical inactivity also contributes to making the condition worse. Recovered COVID – 19 patients must have a controlled sugar level as if not, they can get affected by black fungus.
Some other health conditions, that can make you vulnerable to black fungus are:
- Stem cell transplant
- Long–term steroid use
- Injected drug use
- High levels of iron in your body
- Premature birth
- Underweight since birth
- Unstable levels of acid in your stomach
- Bad health due to poor nutrition
- Skin injury
Unhygienic habits also invite black fungus disease.
Is black fungus treatable?
It’s a great relief to tell you that, yes, it is treatable; and moreover preventable. But, depends on the time of detection and severity of the symptoms. As if it gets detected on time, it will be easy to treat the patient and the patient too will recover soon. For treatment, early detection and powerful treatment are the key.
What to do?
COVID – 19 patients, whether they are suffering or recovered, need to pay attention to the dose and duration of their steroid intakes. People who are undergoing diabetes, cancer, kidney or liver diseases, patients with compromised immune systems, and organ transplant patients must keep a check on their sugar levels and make sure to keep the level under control.
States detected most of the cases of black fungus are:
Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Uttarakhand, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Telangana, Haryana, and Bihar with various other parts of India.
Among them, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Rajasthan, and Haryana have classified Black fungus as an epidemic disease.
Your doctor may ask for a few test along with physical tests like:
- Imaging test
Drugs used in the treatment of black fungus:
Drugs used in the treatment of black fungus have severe side – effects that may lead to kidney issues, stroke, and neurological dysfunction.
Currently, Liposomal Amphotericin B is widely being used by doctors to fight black fungus disease. 60 vials are needed to treat an infected person fully. Reportedly, each vial costs up to 5000 – 6000 INR. Due to a large number of black fungus cases, there is a shortage of this drug. During unavailability, doctors are moved to a second-line drug called Posaconazole. Self–medication is a big NO.
Surgery: In severe cases, if it is untreatable through medications, your doctor may come up with the last option I.e. surgery. The patient may have to remove his or her infected part or organ of the body to stop the spreading of the fungus.
- Blood clot
- Blocked vessels
- Nerve damage
- Controlling sugar levels, especially of diabetics and COVID – 19 patients, is the best preventive measure.
- If one has symptoms, then going for a test is a must. As undetected or lately detected black fungus disease may cost your life.
- Take bath daily
- Stay away from areas where you can come in contact with dust or soil, like construction, etc.
- Don’t ever consume infected water.