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India: Why are black fungus cases spiking in COVID-19 patients?

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By Euronews with AP
A doctor checks a man who recovered from COVID-19 and now infected with black fungus at the Mucormycosis ward of a hospital in Hyderabad, India, May 20, 2021
A doctor checks a man who recovered from COVID-19 and now infected with black fungus at the Mucormycosis ward of a hospital in Hyderabad, India, May 20, 2021   -   Copyright  Mahesh Kumar A/Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
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As COVID-19 infections surge in India, cases of a deadly fungal infection are also on the rise.

Mucormycosis, commonly known as Black Fungus, is caused by molds called mucormycetes.

"It is like a termite," said Dr Ujjwal Parakh, a senior pulmonologist at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital in New Delhi. "It keeps on increasing in a local area and keeps destroying the organs and the tissues that are coming closer to it."

There are different reasons behind the rise in cases of black fungus currently observed in India, according to the medical expert.

One of them is environmental, with fungal infections more common in the country even before COVID-19.

"It has to do with the environment over here. And in different environments, different kind of infections are more common. Like there are certain kinds of fungal infections which are much common in Western countries other than in our country. So there is always a regional bias with these infections," Parakh said.

Another reason is the use of steroids and immunosuppressants in treating COVID-19 patients.

"Steroids are one of the most important medicines to control COVID progression in a patient. So we have to use steroids. In some patients we are using no steroids, in some patients we are using less steroids, in some patients we are using more steroids. And not only steroids, a lot of immunosuppressant medications we are also using. So whenever we are using this, we are predisposing, we are taking a risk," Parakh said.

India has been hit by a devastating second wave of coronavirus infections with more than 276,000 cases detected on Wednesday.

Hospitals continue to struggle with shortages across the country, where total infections have gone past 25 million and more than 287,000 people have died from COVID-19.

Experts believe both figures are an undercount.