PBC News: On Saturday morning, Dr Akshay Nair, a Mumbai-based eye surgeon, was waiting to operate on a 25-year-old woman who had recovered from a bout of Covid-19 three weeks ago.
Inside the surgery, an ear, nose and throat specialist was already at work on the patient, a diabetic.
He had inserted a tube in her nose and was removing tissues infected with mucormycosis, a rare but dangerous fungal infection. This aggressive infection affects the nose, eye and sometimes the brain.
After his colleague finished, Dr Nair would carry out a three hour procedure to remove the patient’s eye.
“I will be removing her eye to save her life. That’s how this disease works,” Dr Nair told me.
Even as a deadly second wave of Covid-19 ravages India, doctors are now reporting a rash of cases involving a rare infection – also called the “black fungus” – among recovering and recovered Covid-19 patients.
Doctor believe mucormycosis, which has an overall mortality rate of 50%, may be being triggered by the use of steroids, a life-saving treatment for severe and critically ill Covid-19 patients.Steroids reduce inflammation in the lungs for Covid-19 and appear to help stop some of the damage that can happen when the body’s immune system goes into overdrive to fight off coronavirus. But they also reduce immunity and push up blood sugar levels in both diabetics and non-diabetic Covid-19 patients.
It’s thought that this drop in immunity could be triggering these cases of mucormycosis.
“Diabetes lowers the body’s immune defences, coronavirus exacerbates it, and then steroids which help fight Covid-19 act like fuel to the fire,” says Dr Nair.