Mucormycosis (black mold) is a rare but dangerous fungal infection from molds called mucormycetes in the air, which affects the nose and the sinus. It can get through a cut on the skin too. People vulnerable to mucormycosis are the ones with health problems and take medicines that lower their immunity. The more highlighted categories of victims are people with high blood sugar (Hyperglycemia) and patients recovering from COVID. Some people had started taking COVID prescribed medicines to build immunity against the virus even if they got a common cold, and that was enough pretext to lower their immunity.
Mucormycosis is of four types, with varying symptoms:
- Rhinocerebral (sinus and brain) – With symptoms like fever, headache, nasal/sinus congestion, one-sided facial swelling, and black lesions on the top bridge of the nose and/or upper inside of the mouth.
- Pulmonary (lung) mucormycosis – With symptoms like fever, cough, chest pain, and shortness of breath
- Cutaneous (skin) mucormycosis – With symptoms like formation of ulcers/blisters, which may turn black or red, along with pain, warmth, and swelling.
- Gastrointestinal mucormycosis – With symptoms like nausea/vomiting, abdominal pain, and gastrointestinal bleeding.
- Disseminated mucormycosis – With symptoms resembling the health problems the patient already has, it is difficult to diagnose.
Confusing Mucormycosis with COVID-19
The symptoms of Pulmonary mucormycosis are very similar to that of COVID-19. Given the pressure on the healthcare system and the delay in COVID test reports coming in, people often self-medicate, which adds to the problem. COVID-19 patients with uncontrolled diabetes and steroid therapy have been vulnerable to mucormycosis. Furthermore, mucormycosis can also affect people who haven’t been victims of COVID-19. Given the Pandemic, the first wave is considered mild, whereas the second wave was more impactful. With no clear guidelines on the use of medications on COVID patients, the indiscriminate use of medicines, especially steroids, has given rise to a fungal disease from environmental fungi that is otherwise not harmful.
White Fungus (Candidiasis)
To complicate things more, a variant White Fungus (Candidiasis) appeared in the States of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh with equivocal opinions of the medical community about its danger as compared to Black Fungus. Candidiasis was caused by unsterile use of medical oxygen and misuse of steroids, and it affected adults and children alike. Symptoms were whitish patches on the oral cavity, white discharge, skin lesions, cough, cold, and hypoxemia (low blood oxygen level).
Again, the symptoms match with that of COVID-19. Clarity is crucial right now to avoid wrong self-medication and facilitate faster treatment of Mucormycosis and Candidiasis.
Treatment for Mucormycosis
For Mucormycosis treatment, surgery is required for the inflamed tissues. Otherwise, a tissue biopsy or CT scan of the lungs/sinuses will detect and judge the necessity of starting IV dosage of Amphotericin B for 4-6 weeks.
Avoiding benefit of the doubt
The Government’s initiative to start a home Rapid Test Kit called ‘Coviself’ is an excellent initiative to provide a quicker and safer way for people to diagnose whether they have COVID or not. If the person is COVID positive, they just saved other people in the vicinity from infection using the test kit at home. Also, it reduces the benefit of the doubt leading to wrong self-medication and reduces pressure on the healthcare system to have professionals collect and test the samples.
How can we protect ourselves?
Mucormycosis is an independent disease that received limelight only because COVID paved the way for it to work with reduced immunity. If we want to escape the new Pandemic and Epidemic variants, we need to use COVID protective gear and strengthen our immunity by avoiding unnecessary antibiotics or steroids. COVID and Mucormycosis may be different, but both of them are deadly.