• Black fungus is caused by a group of moulds known as mucormycetes
  • Warning signs can include toothache, blurred or double vision with pain
  • So far, there has been 11,717 cases of black fungus across India

As India sees a rise in the number of "black fungus" -- a post COVID complication -- an 18-month-old baby became the first reported case of the infection among infants in the country.

Local media reports said the child was infected with mucormycosis in the western state of Rajasthan. Mucormycosis, also known as black fungus, is a type of fungal infection with a high mortality rate. This rare phenomenon is caused by a group of moulds known as mucormycetes, which are present naturally in the environment. The infection spreads through the nose and affects other parts of the body.

"It is ubiquitous and found in soil and air and even in the nose and mucus of healthy people," Dr Akshay Nair, a Mumbai-based eye surgeon, said, according to BBC.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the symptoms of mucormycosis depend on where in the body the fungus is growing. Symptoms of rhinocerebral (sinus and brain) mucormycosis include, one-sided facial swelling, persistent headache, nasal or sinus congestion and fever. Symptoms of pulmonary (lung) mucormycosis include fever, cough, chest pain and shortness of breath. Warning signs can include toothache, loosening of teeth, blurred or double vision with pain.

People with weakened immunity due to COVID-19, diabetes, kidney disease, liver or cardiac disorders, age-related issues, or those on medication for auto-immune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis are at a high risk of contracting mucormycosis.

As the first case in an infant in India was reported this week, Union Chemicals and Fertilisers Minister D.V. Sadananda Gowda said there will be no shortage of drugs to treat "black fungus," according to Times Now. So far, there have been 11,717 cases of black fungus across the country. In Gujarat, a 15-year-old child was infected with Mucormycosis.

All India Institute Of Medical Science Director Dr Randeep Guleria told the media that 90-95% of patients getting infected by black fungus are either diabetic or taking steroids.

India continues to grapple with the severity of the second wave of COVID-19, which has so far infected more than 27 million people. On Wednesday, the country reported more than 200,000 cases and nearly 4,000 deaths. India is currently using mainly two "made-in India" vaccines – Serum Institute's Covishield and Covaxin of Bharat Biotech. So far, the country has vaccinated 200 million people – a milestone achieved in 130 days.

Mucormycosis, dubbed "black fungus", is caused by a mould found in soil and in decaying organic matter like rotting leaves
Mucormycosis, dubbed "black fungus", is caused by a mould found in soil and in decaying organic matter like rotting leaves AFP / Uma Shankar MISHRA