The Centre on Saturday urged health professionals to stop the irrational use of steroids for treating coronavirus patients, and said that it was contributing to the increase in cases of mucormycosis or black fungus.

At the Centre’s press briefing on the coronavirus, NITI Aayog member (health) Dr VK Paul said administering steroids before time, more than the required amount and without need, is not appropriate. He added that black fungus has taken the form of an outbreak.

“Steroids are wonder drugs that can help save lives, but their irrational use can cause harm,” Paul said. “It can complicate diabetes. It is our responsibility to ensure that the outbreak doesn’t spread and cause more harm. We can save ourselves from this disease.”

Lav Agarwal, the joint secretary in the Union health ministry, said at the briefing that the Centre was trying to scale up the production of Amphotericin-B, the drug used to treat the fungal infection. “Five additional manufacturers given license to produce the drug within the country,” he added.

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Black fungus is caused by a fungus named mucor, which is found on wet surfaces. The symptoms of the infection include headache, fever, pain under the eyes, nasal or sinus congestion, and partial loss of vision, among others.

Black fungus has sprung up in patients recovering from the coronavirus. As many as 8,848 cases of the infection have been reported across the country.

On Thursday, the Centre had asked the states and Union Territories to declare mucormycosis a notifiable disease under the Epidemic Diseases Act 1897.

The move would mean that medical facilities will have to report all suspected and confirmed cases to the health department of the respective states. Medical superintendents of all private and government hospitals will have to send a daily report about cases of “black fungus” to the Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme.

Mixing different vaccines theoretically plausible, says Centre

Paul said during the press briefing that it was theoretically possible to administer two different vaccine doses to an individual, but added that there isn’t robust scientific evidence to support that. “Only time will tell and as recommendations become available in the world, we will share them,” he added.

At the briefing, the Centre also said that the World Health Organization was yet to reach a consensus on the vaccine passport for allowing fully-inoculated people to travel internationally, PTI reported.

“Discussion is still being done if vaccinated people will be allowed,” Agarwal said. “As of now, as per WHO guidelines and guidelines by other countries, people with negative COVID test report is being allowed.”