Doctors in India have reported nearly two dozen cases of deadly fungal infection in patients, believed to have been triggered by Covid-19.
At least 12 patients have died so far and have had eyes, noses or jaw bones removed after being infected by mucormycosis – a rare fungal infection that mostly afflicts immunodeficient patients.
Doctors have diagnosed the affliction in 13 patients at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital (SGRH) in New Delhi, alone. Bangalore and Ahmedabad have reported a total of nine cases.
The hospital said in a statement on Tuesday: “In the last 15 days ENT surgeons at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital have seen 13 cases of Covid-triggered mucormycosis with over 50 per cent of patients with loss of eyesight and removal of nose and jaw bone.”
Mortality is currently being seen in the range of 50 per cent (5 patients) with certain deaths when there is involvement of the brain.”
The disease is rarely seen in India and tends to strike people with compromised immune systems such as post-transplant patients and those in ICUs, but Covid-19 is thought to make individuals more vulnerable to infection.
“Generally we see five or six patients in a year but with Covid-19 we have seen 13 patients in past two weeks,” said Dr Shaloo Bageja, senior ophthalmologist at SGRH, New Delhi. “It’s shocking and alarming,” she said.
Black Fungus or mucormycosis, previously called zygomycosis, is caused by a group of moulds called mucormycetes which exist naturally in the environment.
It affects the lungs and the sinuses following inhalation of fungal spores from the air. The fungus can also enter the body through open wounds or cuts. It is not contagious.
“Early diagnosis and prompt treatment with antifungal treatment are vital for improving outcomes in patients with mucormycosis,” said Dr Bageja.
She has seen 10 infected patients and three of them have lost their vision. “There is no chance to regain the eyesight because this fungal infection invades the blood vessels and causes vascular occlusion. Once the blood supply to eye is gone, the vision is lost. And when there is an extensive involvement, we have to remove the eye,” she said.
Dr Bageja said she had removed an eye from two patients.