There could be over 2,000 cases of mucormycosis, a fungal infection more commonly known as “black fungus”, in Maharashtra, the state’s health minister Rajesh Tope said on Tuesday, according to PTI.
The rare infection is caused by a fungus named mucor, which is found on wet surfaces. It has been reported among Covid-19 patients in Delhi and Gujarat also. Symptoms include headache, fever, pain under the eyes, nasal or sinus congestion, and partial loss of vision, among others.
The Maharashtra health minister said that with the increase in the number of coronavirus infections, cases of the black fungus are also likely to rise. Maharashtra has recorded 51,79,929 coronavirus cases and over 77,000 deaths since the pandemic broke out in India in January 2020.
Tope added that black fungus has a mortality rate of 50% and is detected in coronavirus patients patients with comorbidities or suppressed immunity, according to PTI.
The minister said that since mucormycosis patients have to be examined by several specialists, the government has decided to rope in hospitals attached to medical colleges for treating the disease.
The Maharashtra health minister said that the government will cover the cost of mucormycosis treatment under its health insurance scheme, The Times of India reported.
Tope added that the state government will also decide on capping the prices of medicines used to treat mucormycosis. “The main antifungal drug, Amphotericin B, is expensive, and it may be difficult for people to bear the cost,” he said, according to the newspaper. The medicine costs between between Rs 5,000 and Rs 8,000 per vial.
Eight recovered Covid-19 patients have died in Maharashtra after developing the fungal infection. More than 100 patients with it are being treated in Gujarat.
Last week, the Gujarat government had announced that all government-run hospitals reporting incidents of mucormycosis will set up separate wards to treat the infection.
One of the potential causes of the fungal infection is reportedly the use of steroids for Covid-19 treatment, which increases blood sugar levels.
Steroids reduce inflammation in the lungs for Covid-19 and the body’s immune system goes into overdrive to fight off the virus. However, they also may reduce immunity and push up blood sugar levels in both diabetic and non-diabetic Covid-19 patients, according to doctors quoted by the BBC. The drop in immunity might then exacerbate the “black fungus”.