On May 25th, Aaroogya hosted a podcast episode in partnership with Silicon Valley Global Health to interview Dr. Abhimanyu Sharma about how the recent uptick in mucormycosis—also known as black fungus—may be connected to the COVID outbreak. As a senior researcher at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and writer of over 40 scientific articles on a wide variety of topics related to COVID-19 and beyond, Dr. Sharma stressed how the COVID pandemic has created the perfect “recipe” for the growth of black fungus.
A severe COVID infection interferes with and impacts the respiratory system, increases clotting tendencies, and increasing levels of ferritin in the body (See 5:40). Because mucormycosis can affect the sinuses, nose,, eyes, and brain, digestive system, lungs, or skin, the effects of COVID cause a patent to be an ideal host for a black fungus infection. For instance, patients who experience an increase in clotting tendencies from COVID could be susceptible to severe Rhino-Orbital-Cerebral (ROC) Mucormycosis, which affects the nose and sinuses, eyes, and brain and Gastrointestinal Mucormycosis (GIM), both of which attack blood vessels and cause necrosis.
However, while the direct effects of the COVID virus on patients help create an environment in patients wherein black fungus will thrive, this dangerous atmosphere is not necessarily due exclusively to the direct ways COVID affects the body, but the way in which COVID has been treated in India. Mucormycosis exists on soil, dirty fabrics, rotten food, in the air, and on other unsterilized or unhygienic surfaces. Because of this, Dr. Sharma relates, the misuse of oxygen and medications, and unhygienic quarantine practices have contributed to the recent growth in black fungal infections.
Many COVID patients have resorted to self-medicating with high doses of steroids and imploring doctors to prescribe extensive amounts of antibiotics. Steroids are used to reduce inflammation, however many do not know that steroids suppress immunity, leading to a higher likelihood of contracting a black fungal infection. Additionally, antibiotics subdue not only bad bacteria, but bacteria that help oppose mucormycosis. During the oxygen shortage, many families scrambled for oxygen without knowing whether it was sterilized, breathable, healthy medical grade oxygen, or industrial grade oxygen with the potential to carry the black fungus. Finally, Dr. Sharma implores those who are quarantining at home to maintain a hygienic environment by frequently cleaning their clothes, linens, floors, and heavily used surfaces.
Black fungus is totally curable if caught soon enough, Dr. Sharma assures. However, it is imperative for hospitals to regularly clean patient breathing masks, tubes, and humidifiers, for patients who have COVID to assure a clean quarantine environment and the administration of medical-grade oxygen if needed, and for patients after COVID to take care of their immunity for the months following the virus to assure that black fungus cannot take advantage of the conditions COVID creates for it. Additionally, Dr. Sharma pleads those who are infected with ROC or GIM to allow surgical intervention as opposed to treating the infection just with medications because the blood vessel constriction caused by these two modes of mucormycosis will not allow intravenous medicines to reach the target treatment location in the body.
View the episode for more information at the link below: