India reports spike in black fungus infections amid COVID-19 crisis

Several hospitals in India have reported a spike in the number of patients developing black fungus infections, referring to a typically rare and hard-to-treat fungal infection that typically develops in people who have weakened immune systems. Around 300 cases of these fungal infections have been reported across four cities in India where COVID-19 vases remain at critical levels.

A black fungus infection is officially known as mucormycosis; it is caused by mucormycetes found in nature, particularly in soil. In some cases, such as when dirt is stirred up or someone is exposed by ventilation systems, the fungus can deposit in one's sinuses. The immune system typically deals with the invader, but in cases where someone has a compromised immune system, the fungus may develop into a deadly infection.

Hospitals in multiple cities across India are reporting a surprising number of these fungal infections, with doctors speculating that the use of steroids in COVID-19 patients may be contributing to the increase. These steroids work by reducing lung inflammation, but the impact on the body's immune system may leave patients more vulnerable to black fungus.

According to the BBC, reports from doctors in Bangalore, Mumbai, and multiple other cities in India detail COVID-19 patients developing the fungal infection around two weeks after recovering from SARS-CoV-2. The fungal infections appear to be more common in diabetics who are already at increased risk of the infections.

Treatment for black fungus infection is expensive and often brutal; many patients ended up losing an eye as a result, for example, to prevent the infection from spreading into the brain. Black fungus likewise can lead to blindness if left untreated and has a high mortality rate.