Tuesday September 28, 2021

‘Cases of Black Fungus emerge across Pakistan’

Mucormycosis is a lethal deadly fungal infection found in some serious Covid-19 patients with uncontrolled diabetes and prolonged ICU stay
File phto of a Coronavirus Treatement Unit at a Karachi hospital.

KARACHI: Several cases of Mucormycosis, also known as ‘Black Fungus’ and “some deaths due to it” have been reported among Covid-19 patients at several healthcare facilities across Pakistan, infectious diseases specialists confirmed on Tuesday, adding that many centers were not reporting them as it is very hard to identify and diagnose this lethal fungal infection among patients.

“We have seen at least five cases of Mucormycosis also called, Black Fungus, among serious Covid -19 patients under treatment at the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at the health facility. At least four patients died due to this complication. At least two more centers also have reported Mucormycosis cases among Covid -19 patients,” a physician dealing with Covid -19 patients at a tertiary-care hospital in Karachi disclosed to The News on Tuesday.

According to infectious diseases experts Mucormycosis is a lethal deadly fungal infection found in some serious Covid-19 patients with uncontrolled diabetes and prolonged intensive care unit (ICU) stay. It is also found in non-Covid patients with similar co-morbiditgies and prolonged ICU stay, saying ‘Black Fungus’ affects the brain and lungs. The infectious diseases expert from Karachi, who requested anonymity due to sensitivity of the situation, further informed that cases of Black Fungus have been seen at least three hospitals in Pakistan while some people have also lost their lives due to lethal fungal infection, whose mortality rate is above 50 percent.

“This fungal infection mainly affects people on medications that weaken their immune system and reduce their ability to fight environmental pathogens. The Covid -19 patients already have low immunity and they are also given steroids so they become an easy target of Black Fungus,” the expert said. According to him, it a rare but dangerous fungal infection caused by a group of moulds known as mucormycetes, which occur naturally in the environment.

Use of steroids among Covid -19 patients, the viral infection itself and uncontrolled diabetes combined with long stay in the ICUs provide ideal conditions for the Mucormycosis to develop among patients, he said, adding that Mucormycosis were observed more in India and Pakistan due to their hot and humid climate. “It is the same fungus that grows on bread. The black one,” he explained.

“The Mucormycosis and other moulds including ,CAPA are also being seen among COVID-19 patients, which is Covid-19 Associated Pulmonary Aspergillosis,” cause serious complications,” he said adding that spores of the fungus normally enter by inhalation and affect the sinuses and lungs. They can also enter through an open cut or wound and infect the skin.

Responding to a query, the official said several infectious diseases experts were informing each other about Mucormycosis among their patients from their centers but added that as it was not a ‘reportable disease’, authorities or epidemiological officials were not being informed about it. “This (Mucormycosis or Black Fungus) is a highly lethal fungal infection, Covid or non- Covid anyway, whose mortality is around 50 percent and we know that following Covid-19 chances of contracting fungal infection are very high,” he added.