Maharashtra, a state that on May 19 saw 34,031 fresh cases of Covid-19, has a new enemy – Mucormycosis, or as it is more commonly known – the Black Fungus disease. This rare but serious fungal infection that is increasingly being seen in Covid-19 patients, has claimed as many as 90 lives in the state!
According to a report in the Indian Express, at least 1,500 Covid-19 patients are suffering from Mucormycosis, out of whom 850 are in hospitals. Unfortunately, the state is running low on Amphotericin B injections required to treat the condition.
Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope told media persons that though an order for 1.9 lakh Amphotericin B injections had already been placed, the state is yet to receive delivery from manufacturers. The Indian Express quoted him as saying, “The state had last purchased 16,000 injections and has issued a global tender to procure the drug. But since the drug is centrally controlled by the government, we have urged the Centre to allocate more stock to Maharashtra at the earliest,” adding, “The next 10 days are crucial. We may face a shortage. The Centre must direct companies to supply the drug to us.”
While 60,000 doses are expected to be delivered by a company called AIG Life Science, efforts are also underway to locally manufacture the drug. Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray is likely to discuss this with prime Minister Narendra Modi over video conferencing today. Meanwhile, all hospitals enrolled under the Mahatma Jyotiba Phule Jan Arogya Yojana have been asked to treat Mucormycosis patients for free.
Cases of Mucormycosis are being reported from across India, mainly Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Delhi and Karnataka, apart from Maharashtra.
Last week, the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers had addressed the issue of shortages saying, “A sudden increase in demand has been observed in some states for Amphotericin B which is being actively prescribed by the physicians to patients suffering from Mucormycosis, a post Covid complication. The Government of India is therefore engaging with the manufacturers to ramp up production of the drug. The supply position is expected to improve with extra imports of this drug and increase in its production domestically.”
What is Mucormycosis?
Mucormycosis is a fungal disease that affects the nose, eyes and sometimes even the brain. It is dangerous because it spreads aggressively and can affect the lungs and the sinus. It is life-threatening to patients of diabetes. It is also extremely dangerous to anyone with reduced immunity, or other comorbidities arising out of cancer or organ transplants.
Mucormycosis is now being reported in patients of Covid-19, even in cases where the person has recovered from Covid-19. What makes it worse, is that it is believed to have a mortality rate of 50 percent and may be triggered by steroids used to treat Covid patients. This is because some steroids affect immunity and also increase blood sugar levels.
According to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), some of the most common symptoms of Mucormycosis are pain and redness around eyes or nose, fever, headache, coughing, bloody vomits and altered mental status.