The Fungal Epidemic – What You Should Know

The Fungal Epidemic – What You Should Know

Since the onset of the second wave, many states have declared lockdown to help prevent the further spread of Covid however, as the peak seems to subside another epidemic has started ravaging India. Mucormycotic, colloquially known as black fungus has seen a significant rise in the second wave unlike the first and has been declared an epidemic in many states across India. As of 25th May 2021, about 11,700 cases of black fungus have been reported.[1] Amidst this dread, reports of white fungus started surfacing followed by reports of yellow fungus which has instilled confusion and panic amongst the general public about these infections.

First things first, these fungal infections are caused by Mucoromycetes, a group of molds belonging to the scientific order Morales and aren’t contagious in most cases. The colloquial names of these infections (i.e. Black, White and Yellow) come from their symptoms and the type of infection they cause in the body:

1. Black Fungus is the infection where mucoromycetes infest the sinuses and bones of the face and invade the brain or cause patients to lose an eye. The symptoms may range from pain on the side of face, toothache to discoloration of nose.
2. White fungus has fewer reported cases but is more lethal because mucoromycetes damage vital organs such as the brain, the digestive system, respiratory organs, kidneys and even private parts.[5] The symptoms are similar to Covid-19 and range from breathlessness to chest pain, headaches and even swelling.
3. Yellow fungus is also an infection caused by Mucoromycetes, however it usually affects reptiles and has come out as an unprecedented and opportunist infection in humans. Micro septic’s is difficult to diagnose as its effects are more internal and not visible. Common symptoms include lethargy, weight loss and lack of appetite which becomes severe as sunken eyes, pus leakage, slow healing of wounds, organ failure and necrosis (tissue death)

The intravenous antifungal drug, Amphotericin B is used for the treatment of fatal fungal infections.

Mucoromycetes are found throughout the environment, from soil to any decaying matter. Most people are exposed to it daily and under normal circumstances, the chances of getting a fungal infection are extremely rare. People who are at risk of infection are those that have weakened immune systems or are on immunosuppressants (such as corticosteroids). Diabetes mellitus is the most common risk factor, followed by blood cancer and solid-organ transplant. Other emerging risk factors are pulmonary tuberculosis, chronic kidney disease, critically ill patients and trauma (serious injuries).[8] Since fungi require damp environment to grow, preventive measures are keeping rooms well ventilated, clean and dry. Clothes and masks should be cleaned and changed regularly as well. Proper disposal of organic waste can also help prevent infections.