Mucormycosis / Black Fungus

introduction

What is Black Fungus?

Mucormycosis or Black fungus is a rare infection. It is caused by exposure to mucor mold which is commonly found in soil, plants, manure, and decaying fruits and vegetables.

It affects the sinuses, the brain, and the lungs and can be life-threatening in diabetic or severely immunocompromised individuals, such as cancer patients or people with HIV/AIDS.

Symptoms of Mucormycosis

Mucormycosis, also known as black fungus or zygomycosis, is caused by a group of mold called Mucormycetes.

These fungi live in the environment, particularly in soil and in decaying organic matter, such as leaves, compost piles, or rotten wood, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

When someone breathes these fungal spores, they are likely to get an infection that commonly affects the sinuses or lungs.

Medical experts say black fungal disease is an “opportunistic infection” – it latches on to people who are battling illnesses or are on medications that lower the body’s ability to fight infections.

Patients with COVID-19 have weak immunity and a large number of them are put on steroids in order to control a hyperimmune response, thus making them susceptible to other fungal infections such as mucormycosis.

The majority of mucormycosis infections have been seen in COVID-19 patients with diabetes or those with underlying and undetected high blood sugar.

India’s poor air quality and excessive dust in cities such as Mumbai, make it easier for the fungi to thrive.

Black fungus disease is like fast-spreading cancer that invades the body.

Causes of Mucormycosis

The major cause for cataract is age. Other than that, various factors can cause the formation of cataracts like:

  • Previous or untreated eye injury
  • Hypertension
  • Previous eye surgery
  • UV radiation
  • Long exposure to sunlight
  • Over usage of certain medications
  • Hormone replacement therapy

Symptoms & Causes

Mucormycosis is caused by exposure to mucor mold which is commonly found in soil, plants, manure, and decaying fruits and...

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Risk Factors

People who are immunocompromised are more at risk of contracting this rare infection. Loss of immunity can happen due to:

  • Diabetes, especially with diabetic ketoacidosis
  • Cancer
  • Organ transplant
  • Stem cell transplant
  • Neutropenia 
  • Long-term corticosteroid use
  • Injection drug use
  • Too much iron in the body (iron overload or hemochromatosis)
  • Skin injury due to surgery, burns, or wounds
prevention

Prevention

  • Use masks if you are visiting dusty construction sites.
  • Periodic health exams even after having recovered from COVID to keep your blood sugar under control is necessary. 
  • Wear shoes, long trousers, long sleeve shirts, and gloves while handling soil (gardening), moss, or manure.
  • Maintain personal hygiene including a thorough scrub bath

Treatments

Black fungus diagnosis is challenging because the symptoms are common to several other conditions It s diagnosis hence involves a...

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FAQ

What is black fungus ?

Mucormycosis or Black fungus is a rare infection. It is caused by exposure to mucor mold which is commonly found in soil, plants, manure, and decaying fruits and vegetables.

The early symptoms depend on the area of infection. In case of infection in the nose, sinuses, and eyes – the earliest signs are nasal blockage, facial numbness, and double vision.

Some of the symptoms to look out for are:

  • Sinusitis – nasal blockade or congestion, nasal discharge (blackish/bloody), local pain on the cheekbone
  • One sided facial pain, numbness, or swelling.
  • Blackish discoloration over the bridge of nose/palate Toothache, loosening of teeth, jaw involvement.
  • Blurred or double vision with pain
  • Fever, skin lesion; thrombosis & necrosis (eschar) Chest pain, worsening of respiratory symptom

No, Mucormycosis or Black fungus in humans is not contagious. People who are immunocompromised due to health conditions such as diabetes, cancer, or organ transplants are more at risk of this disease. Increased corticosteroid use during COVID -19 also weakens the immunity, which may make patients susceptible to Black Fungus.

Diagnosis of black fungal infection in the nose, sinus, and eyes is done through methods such as endoscopic examination of the sinuses and laboratory testing of the nasal tissue. This along with a CT or MRI scan can help clinch the diagnosis.

Yes, Mucromycosis is treatable.Treatment of Mucormycosis is a teamwork involving an ENT (Ear, nose ,throat ) specialist, ophthalmologist, neurologist and a radiologist. In advanced cases, surgery might be required along with antifungal medication such as Amphotericin B.

Some of the precautions one can take are:

  • Periodic health checkups to monitor parameters such as blood sugar after recovery from COVID -19. 
  • Usage of masks when in dusty environments such as construction sites.
  • Wearing gloves and protective clothing while gardening or dealing with soil, manure or organic substances.
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