Recent studies found that patients who have or are recovering from COVID-19 who then contract a sometimes deadly fungal infection known as mucormycosis—also known as “black fungus.”
In a new study from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, researchers found that cases of the disease are hitting COVID patients in the United States.
The condition is caused by a variety of naturally occurring fungi that are typically harmless, but can trigger illness in folks whose immune systems have been depleted by illness, including COVID-19.
It can also develop on the skin after the fungus enters the skin through a cut, scrape, burn or other type of skin trauma.
Once established, “black fungus” disease is tough to treat. In some patients, this may result in loss of upper jaw or sometimes even the eye. Cure may also involve a 4-6-week course of intravenous antifungal therapy.
In the study, the team reported 10 cases of black fungus illness in patients treated at six Arkansas hospitals between July 12 and Sept. 28, 2021.
All had tested positive for COVID within the prior two months, and eight of the 10 patients also had diabetes—another noted risk factor for contracting mucormycosis.
Many cases were severe—four patients showed disease that had spread to the nose and mouth, with three of those patients also having the brain affected.
In two cases, the illness attacked the lungs, and in one case the gastrointestinal system was affected.
None of the patients had been vaccinated against the new coronavirus.
Besides battling mucormycosis, eight of the patients suffered such severe cases of COVID-19 that they required either supplemental oxygen or mechanical ventilation to breathe.
Most patients did not survive their ordeal. Five patients received surgical treatment to excise mucormycosis-affected tissue. Six of the 10 patients died during hospitalization or within one week of discharge.
The team noted that the outbreak in black fungus cases in Arkansas coincided with a midsummer statewide surge in COVID-19 cases, driven by the emergence and spread of the Delta variant.
As they battle COVID-19, some of these patients may also be receiving medications that suppress their immune systems, such as dexamethasone or tocilizumab, and many will have already suffered lung damage.
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The study is published in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
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