Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday said that the Centre should try to clarify doubts related to mucormycosis or “black fungus”, which has been declared an epidemic in several states.

Mucormycosis is a fungal infection that has been reported among hundreds of recovered Covid-19 patients. It 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.

“[The] central government should clarify about the ‘black fungus’ epidemic – Firstly, what is being done for [anti-fungal] Amphotericin B drug shortage? Secondly, what is the procedure for getting this medicine to the patient? Thirdly, instead of giving treatment, why is the public getting hassled by formalities by the government?”

In a separate tweet on Tuesday, Gandhi also shared a graph showing employment in India. “PM’s hall of shame...” he tweeted. “Minimum GDP. Maximum Unemployment.”

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‘Black fungus’ or mucormycosis cases in India

On May 20, the Centre had asked the states and Union Territories to declare mucormycosis a notifiable disease under the Epidemic Diseases Act 1897.

On May 22, Union minister Sadananda Gowda said there are 8,848 cases of mucormycosis or “black fungus” in India. The minister added that 23,680 additional vials of Amphotericin-B, the drug used to treat the infection, have been allocated to the states.

According to the break-up provided by Gowda, Gujarat has been allotted 5,800 vials of the drug. The state has reported 2,281 cases of the fungal infection, the maximum in the country.

Maharashtra, with 2,000 cases of “black fungus”, was allotted 5,090 vials of Amphotericin-B. Andhra Pradesh, which has recorded 910 cases of the infection, got 2,310 vials. Madhya Pradesh received 1,830 vials of the medicine, while Rajasthan got 1,780.

One of the potential causes of the fungal infection is reportedly the use of steroids for Covid-19 treatment, which increases blood sugar levels.

On May 22, the Centre had urged health professionals to stop the irrational use of steroids for treating coronavirus patients and said it was contributing to the increase in “black fungus” cases.

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”.