Mumbai, India – For 35-year-old Milind Deshmukh, contracting the COVID-19 virus has been a disruptive, life-changing phenomenon.
A machine manufacturer from Thane, an area of Mumbai, contracted a fungal infection known as mucormycosis while fighting the disease.
One month later, the rapidly spreading fungus had eaten up a large portion of its face, including his right eye and mouth.
“He has undergone three operations, lost his sight and is unable to speak or eat because of sharp teeth,” his older brother Deshmukh Makarand told Al Jazeera. All of this is very destructive. ”
How many cases have been found?
Doctors in India have recorded a large sample of fungi, which are difficult to treat.
Although cases of mucormycosis have been detected in the country in the past, a recent increase in the number of cases is due to some people with COVID-19 and who have recovered from the disease.
These figures are higher than the COVID-19 cases before coming to India.
“It’s dangerous,” says Dr. Milind Navalakhe, a doctor of ear, nose and throat (ENT) at Global Hospital in Mumbai who performed oral surgery on Deshmukh.
By acting for about 25 years, Navalakhe was able to catch a single case of mucormycosis one week before the epidemic.
“Now, I see 25 cases of mucormycosis a week, all COVID-19 patients are either cured or recovering,” he said.
The western part of Maharashtra, home to Mumbai, has recorded nearly 2,000 cases and the killing of eight people due to mucormycosis so far.
Health Minister Rajesh Tope has announced the establishment of special rooms in hospitals for the treatment of the disease.
What causes mucormycosis?
Mucormycosis, also known as black fungus or zygomycosis, is caused by a group of fungi called mucormycetes.
The fungus lives in the environment, especially in soil and decaying materials, such as leaves, compost piles, or rotten wood, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
When a person breathes in the spores of a fungus, he or she can pick up a virus that affects the sinuses or lungs.
Medical experts say that mucormycosis is a “chance virus” – it also affects people who are struggling with the disease or who are taking antiretroviral drugs.
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Patients with COVID-19 have a weakened immune system and most of them are given steroids to counteract the immune response, thus leading them to develop other fungal infections such as mucormycosis, experts say.
Most cases of mucormycosis have been detected in COVID-19 patients with diabetes or high blood sugar.
The harsh atmosphere in India, as well as the high dust in cities like Mumbai, contributes to the healthy growth of mushrooms.
“There is also a misuse and overdose of steroids and antibiotics in India that are contributing to the spread of the disease,” Navalakhe said.
Is it spreading?
Doctors at India’s capital, New Delhi, have begun performing tests on mucormycosis.
The city, with a population of about 20 million, is being shaken by the second deadly COVID-19 wave, with doctors hoping for an outbreak of fungal infections.
“We are seeing double, triple cases of mucormycosis,” said Dr Neha Gupta, a gynecologist and infectious disease specialist at Medanta Hospital in Gurugram, India’s capital city.
He said patients come with symptoms such as loose or fallen teeth, facial pain and swelling of the face.
“In the past we have seen countless cases of mucormycosis among people who have been involved in road accidents or those with diabetes. But now all cases are related to COVID-19,” he said.
Mucormycosis is also known to start on the skin if fungi enter through cuts, scratches, or other injuries. Patients who have had organ transplants are also known to be obsessed.
In the western region of Gujarat, hospitals have begun to rehabilitate rooms in the midst of an increasing number of fungal infections.
Authorities have also introduced an anti-fungal regime called Amphotericin-B, which is essential for the treatment of mucormycosis.
When the Gujarat government was notified of about 100 cases, doctors said the number could be higher.
Dr Dinesh Harani, an ENT surgeon at Gandhidham in Kutch district in Gujarat, told Al Jazeera that he had sent five patients with mucormycosis surgery to Ahmedabad, the state’s largest city, in the past three days.
“I have not seen any case of mucormycosis in the 35 years I have been working until now,” said Haran, who oversees the four-room hospital.
“Injectable Amphotericin-B is also needed,” he said.
Ahmedabad Civil Hospital rescued 19 patients from mucormycosis last week. Many public and private hospitals from other cities in the state, including Surat, Anand and Vadodara, have also reported cases.
The treatment of mucormycosis is expensive. Removal of the virus is a first-line treatment, in addition to long-term anti-fungal treatment.
“Mucormycosis is like a contagious cancer that enters the body,” Mumbai infectious disease specialist Dr Tanu Singhal told Al Jazeera.
“The cost of all medicines including Indian surgery is $ 40,002 ($ 54,452) to Indian 50,00,000 rupees ($ 68,065).”