Thursday, May 20 2021

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Big Story

Black fungus: A new circle in Covid hell

The TLDR: Hospitals are witnessing a surge in black fungal infections—which is claiming the lives of patients or often leaving them maimed and disfigured. We look at the latest horror of the second wave—and examine how poor medical protocols are triggering a secondary epidemic.


What is this fungal infection?

The mold: The medical term for it is Mucormycosis—and it is an invasive infection caused by a common class of molds called mucormycetes. They are found everywhere from soil, compost, manure, rotting wood or that black mold you see on old fruits and bread. Mucor produces millions of microscopic spores which are dispersed in air and replicate where they land—and the spore count is typically higher during summer. We often inhale these spores, but they are harmless if you are a healthy person—since our immune system can easily fight them off. 


The danger: But mucor can turn deadly for certain kinds of people, triggering Mucormycosis. One, a person whose immune system has been compromised. Two, someone who is on immunosuppressant drugs —which makes them more vulnerable to infections. Three, a person who has diabetes since higher blood sugar levels and more acidic blood creates a fertile environment for the fungi.


The effect: Here’s what happens when a person becomes infected as the spores enter through their nostrils:


“In such vulnerable patients, the spores germinate to form long tubular filaments that can grow into the sinuses, into the bone, and the blood stream. The symptoms of mucormycosis and progression of the infection can vary from person to person; they include a throbbing headache, fever, facial and nasal pain, blackish nasal discharge, loss of vision, toothache, loosening of teeth, swelling in the upper jaw, and sometimes face paralysis.”


And once it invades the sinuses, the fungus can spread to the lungs, the brain and the central nervous system. The chances of dying are higher than 50% if it crosses into the brain. Doctors often have to cut out the infected parts to save the patient’s life.


Point to note: The disease is initially painless and silent. So people often don’t know that something is wrong until it's too late.


What’s the connection to Covid?


In today’s edition

Headlines That Matter

  • The Israel-Palestine war: the latest update
  • Elon Musk is not that rich
  • Good news on Alzheimer’s
  • The fount of plastic pollution


Reading Habit

  • From 'Chocolat’ to 'The Flatshare': Here are some of our fave rainy day reads!

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