Thousands Of COVID-19 Survivors Battling Lethal Black Fungal Infections In India

ALLAHABAD, INDIA - JUNE 05: An ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist doctor inspects a patient before surgery to remove mucormycosis from the patient. (Photo by Ritesh Shukla/Getty Images)

Jesse Stiller Contributor
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Survivors of COVID-19 in India are facing a growing epidemic of black fungus infections in the wake of the country’s rapid outbreak of COVID-19 cases in the spring of 2021.

Approximately 31,216 patients have contracted mucormycosis as of June 11, with 2,109 deaths, from the infection, which is a 150% increase in cases over the past three weeks, Business Insider reported Monday.

Most of the patients are those who had recently been infected with COVID-19, with some doctors hypothesizing that the outbreak could be attributed to the oxygen shortage that accompanied the surge in hospitalizations in the spring, Business Insider reported.

Those that were given steroid injections to combat COVID-19, which was used as a substitute for oxygen when it was unavailable, may have weakened the immune systems of recipients, exposing them to spores in the air that caused mucormycosis.

“Mucormycosis will tail off and go back to baseline as the COVID cases subside, but it may come back in the third wave unless we find out why [it’s] happening.” Epidemiologist Dr. Dileep Mavalankar told The New York Times regarding the black fungus epidemic.

India is also suffering from a shortage of amphotericin B, a key anti-fungal medicine that is commonly used to treat black fungal infections, according to Business Insider. (RELATED: Men Smearing Cow Feces On Themselves To Fight COVID-19 In India, Doctors Begging Them To Stop)

As a result, some doctors have resorted to using cheaper drugs that are also effective, but are potentially toxic and could cause kidney damage, the Times reported.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said that the fungal outbreak was a “new challenge” to the recovery of India following their COVID outbreak, and emphasized the need to “create systems to tackle” the new problem, the Times reported.

India has recently bought 300 million doses of an unapproved COVID-vaccine that would be used for rapid distribution should it be approved by the government.