Pakistan reports cases of ‘black fungus’ among several COVID-19 patients: report

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Karachi – Staff Reporter:

Several health care facilities across Pakistan have reported cases of mucormycosis, also known as ‘black fungus’ among coronavirus patients, on Wednesday.

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.

Infectious diseases specialists confirmed that many centres were not reporting the cases as it is very hard to identify and diagnose this lethal fungal infection among patients.

Black fungus also found in non-Covid-19 patients

The experts said that it is also found in non-Covid patients with similar co-morbidities and prolonged ICU stay, saying black fungus affects the brain and lungs.

“We have seen at least five cases of Mucormycosis also called, black fungus, among serious Covid -19 patients under treatment at the ICU,” a physician dealing with coronavirus patients at a tertiary-care hospital in Karachi disclosed to the publication.

He said that at least four patients died due to this complication. “At least two more centres have also reported Mucormycosis cases among Covid-19 patients,” he added.

The infectious diseases expert from Karachi, who requested anonymity due to the sensitivity of the situation, further disclosed that black fungus cases have been seen in at least three hospitals in Pakistan.

Meanwhile, some people have also lost their lives due to lethal fungal infection, whose mortality rate is above 50%, he added.

“This fungal infection mainly affects people on medications that weaken their immune system and reduce their ability to fight environmental pathogens,” one of the experts said.

‘Covid-19 easy targets for black fungus’

COVID-19 patients already have low immunity and they are also given steroids so they become an easy target of black fungus, the expert added.

According to him, it is a rare but dangerous fungal infection caused by a group of moulds known as micromycetes, which occur naturally in the environment.

The use of steroids among Covid-19 patients, the viral infection itself, and uncontrolled diabetes combined with a long stay in the ICUs provide ideal conditions for Mucormycosis to develop among patients, he said.

Mucormycosis was 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.

‘Spores of the fungus normally enter by inhalation’

The medical expert added 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) 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 the fungal infection are very high,” he added.