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Fungal infection caused by covid assumes epidemic proportions | India News

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MUMBAI: Suhas, a twenty-nine-year-old businessman, thought he had beaten the coronavirus when he got off a non-invasive ventilator and went home after two weeks. But soon he began to feel pain and swelling in his face. A quick CT scan confirmed the doctor’s fears: He had contracted mucormycosis, a life-threatening fungal infection. He recently underwent surgery at Global Hospital in Parel, where doctors had to remove his upper jaw to stop the spread of the fungus to his brain.
Triggered by the coronavirus, mucormycosis, which has a mortality rate of more than 50% and can lead to blindness, is spreading across parts of the state. City hospitals that are treating dozens of such cases in northern Maharashtra and Vidarbha said their spread is assuming epidemic proportions, so much so that regions have started to face a shortage of antifungal drugs. Global Hospital, which has started a dedicated mucormycosis clinic after witnessing an increase in cases during the first wave, has 18 patients currently admitted.
ENT surgeon Dr. Milind Navalakhe, who is part of the team that runs the clinic, said they have admitted 31 patients, 25 of whom are from out of town. “Mucormycosis cases have exploded in the state, and the government must intervene urgently. Medical centers in Maharashtra, particularly in Vidarbha, must be experiencing a 100% -200% increase in cases,” he said. At the Global center, six patients have lost their entire upper jaw, while one has lost an eyeball due to infection.
Parel KEM Hospital has 25 patients undergoing treatment for mucormycosis. Dr. Hetal Marfatia, head of ENT, said that almost all the patients come from far away districts and have arrived at an advanced stage. The infection usually begins to grow from the nose, upper jaw, and travels to the brain. “Once it gets to the brain, it’s almost a death sentence,” he said, adding that after treating a handful of cases a year, the hospital now receives between three and four referrals a day.
ENT surgeon Dr. Sanjeev Zambane said he has been seeing a minimum of two cases of mucormycosis in one day. The biggest challenge now is treatment, as antifungal drugs are not only in short supply but are also very expensive.
In pre-Covid times, ‘black fungus’ mucormycosis used to be rare and mainly seen in immunosuppressed people. However, after the pandemic, three factors have caused an exponential increase: Covid itself, diabetes and the abuse of steroids that reduce immunity.

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