News & Events

India is dying from COVID-19 and a rare fungal infection

Here’s what you need to know.

words by: Alee Kwong
Jun 14, 2021

COVID-19 has had a literal death grip on India and has infected 28 million people and ruthlessly taken the lives of 329,000 people (as of 5/31/2021). If the rampant second wave of the virus isn’t enough on their plate, India is simultaneously dealing with mucormycosis, a rare but deadly fungal infection.


What is Mucormycosis?

The CDC states that mucormycosis, previously known as zygomycosis, is a serious but rare fungal infection caused by a group of molds called mucormycetes.


Why is it currently being found in COVID-19 patients?

Mucormycosis mainly affects people who have health problems or take medication that lowers the body’s ability to fight germs and sickness. It most commonly affects the sinuses or the lungs after inhaling fungal spores from the air. Basically, COVID-19 is an open playground for this rare infection to manifest and hang out.


On May 8, Dr. Akshay Nair, a Mumbai-based eye surgeon, found the fungal infection in the nose tissue of a recovered COVID-19 patient (who has a history with diabetes) while preparing for an operation. After finding the infected tissue, Nair made the call to remove the patient’s eye. Mucormycosis affects the nose and eyes, making its way to the brain. “I will be removing her eye to save her life. That’s how this disease works,” Dr. Nair told BBC.


When explaining how this infection ties together with COVID-19, he said, “Diabetes lowers the body’s immune defenses, coronavirus exacerbates it, and then steroids which help fight COVID-19 act like fuel to the fire.” According to Dr. Renuka Bradoo, Mumbai’s Sion Hospital has reported 24 cases of the fungal infection in the past two months, averaging about six cases a year. “We are already seeing two to three cases a week here. It’s a nightmare inside a pandemic,” she told BBC. Dr. Nair states that he has never seen more than 10 cases in Mumbai in the past two years. Places like Bangalore have never seen more than one or two cases per year in over a decade. “This year is something different,” Dr. Nair says.


In May, India had 79.4 million COVID-19 vaccines for use, not nearly enough seeing as the second wave had already killed 150,000 people in the past eight weeks. India is projected to have nearly 120 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine this month. Fingers crossed that the jump in vaccinations can catch up to the aggressive fungal infection that is piggy-backing onto the COVID-19 virus.


As a global collective, we need to be aware of what is going on in other parts of the world, especially during a pandemic that may end up affecting all of us. In case you want to boost your immune system after reading this, try adding some of these foods into your diet.


Photo via Reuters