First cases of black fungus from Indian COVID variant found outside country


Fears have been sparked after cases of deadly black fungus from the Indian COVID variant have been found outside India.

Medics in Chile reported a case of virus-related fungus, with scientists in Uruguay logging a patient there suffering with the condition.

The Chilean Society of Infectology said: “Cases of fungal infections have been detected since the start of the pandemic but the frequency has increased and serious cases have risen.”

India, which is being ravaged by variants, is battling hundreds of black fungus infections.

About 750 patients in Delhi have been recorded, and more than 50 deaths.

The rare condition is caused by molds known as mucromycetes which can kill people whose immune systems are weak.

When the spores – which occur naturally in the environment — are breathed in, they attack the lungs and sinuses before spreading to the face and the brain.

Mucormycosis causes blurred or double vision, chest pain and breathing difficulties.

It is thought the condition has exploded in India due to a lack of drugs available to treat it.

Patients with suppressed immune systems are most at risk — and scientists fear a rise in infections is being triggered by steroids used to treat ill COVID patients.

Medics in India are now seeing around five or six cases a day, but would usually see three or four a year.

It comes after we told how thousands of patients in India have had their eyes removed after an outbreak of black fungus.

Around 60 percent of patients treated in hospital have had at least one eye removed after the second wave of coronavirus caused an explosion of the creeping fungal disease.

A surgery being performed on a mucormycosis patient at a hospital in Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh, India on June 3, 2021.
A surgery being performed on a mucormycosis patient at a hospital in Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh, India on June 3, 2021.
EPA/RAJAT GUPTA

“In this battle of ours, another new challenge of black fungus has also emerged these days,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted on Friday.

India has the second-highest tally of COVID-19 cases in the world and has been reporting around 250,000 infections and 4,000 deaths daily.

Mucormycosis mainly affects people who have health problems or take medicines that lower the body’s ability to fight germs and sickness.

It can be life-threatening in diabetic or severely immunocompromised individuals, such as patients with cancer or organ donor recipients. 

In COVID patients, it’s more prevalent in patients who are on ventilatory support.

Doctors think this may be due to the use of steroid drugs, which are used to treat severely ill COVID patients.

An Indian surgeon holding a piece of black fungus from a mucormycosis patient at a hospital in Kota, Rajasthan, India on June 2, 2021.
An Indian surgeon holding a piece of black fungus from a mucormycosis patient at a hospital in Kota, Rajasthan, India on June 2, 2021.
Photo by Rebecca Conway/Getty Images

Steroids reduce inflammation caused by an overactive immune response fight off coronavirus. 

It comes as the Indian variant threatens UK ministers plans to scrap social distancing, but keep face masks and work from home guidance in place after June 21. 

The mutation is behind almost three quarters of all cases in the UK and has been found in more than 250 of England’s 300-plus authorities. 

But the success of the UK’s vaccine rollout is believed to be responsible for recent low death tolls — despite rising cases of the Indian mutation.

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