Doctors at New Delhi’s Sir Ganga Ram Hospital have reported that more than a dozen recovered Covid-19 patients have been afflicted with a serious fungal infection that has already claimed five lives.
The mucormycosis fungus, which usually takes 15-30 days to spread, was registered growing in former coronavirus patients within just 2-3 days, the doctors warned.
The fungus can lead to various gruesome outcomes, depending on where it might spread in the body. In some cases, the infection could necessitate the removal of the nose and jawbone and can also cause permanent loss of eyesight. The mortality rate for patients in which the fungus spreads to the brain is a startling 50 percent.
Over the last two weeks, surgeons at Ganga Ram had to perform operations on 10 patients to remove infected tissue. Half the patients lost their eyesight while five of them died.
Dr. Manish Munjal, Ganga Ram’s Senior ENT surgeon, explained to India’s ANI news agency that the mucormycosis fungus afflicts patients whose immune systems have been very weakened by the novel coronavirus.
The fungus seems to enter the host’s body by exploiting the immune system’s Cytokine responses, provoked by large doses of steroids commonly given to Covid-19 patients.
“It allows mucormycosis to travel through the nose root to the eyes and brain and, if undetected, it can lead to the death of over 50 percent [of] cases in a matter of days,” Munjal told ANI.
According to India’s leading infectious disease expert Dr. Atul Patel, the 19 cases of mucormycosis among recovered Covid-19 Patients, recorded over the last three months are already a significant spike.
“This is 4.5 times higher than the burden reported conventionally before the pandemic,” Patel said, adding, “This is a serious issue and healthcare providers should be extremely cautious”.