More deadly infections like India's 'black fungus' have already hit UK in Covid 'perfect storm', experts warn
2nd July 2021

DEADLY infections such as the black fungus seen in India have hit the UK in what experts are calling a "perfect Covid storm".

Critically ill Covid patients are said to be contracting various infections as those with underlying health conditions are more susceptible due to weakened immune systems.

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Most people can fight off fungi if they come into contact with it but if you have a weakened immune system or a condition that was diagnosed in your early years (congenital conditions) then you could be at risk.

Dr Tom Chiller, chief of Mycotic Diseases at the US-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explained that the combination of Covid and steroids used to treat Covid is in some cases leaving people vulnerable.

"It’s an unfortunate perfect storm for these organisms, and we’re seeing it", he told The Guardian.

Experts say that black fungus was present in India before the pandemic but that other fungal infections are now popping up across the globe.

India, which is being ravaged by variants, is battling hundreds of black fungus infections.

About 750 patients in Delhi have been recorded, and more than 50 deaths.

The rare condition is caused by moulds known as mucromycetes which can kill people whose immune systems are weak.

When the spores – which occur naturally in the environment – are breathed in, they attack the lungs and sinuses before spreading to the face and the brain.

Mucormycosis causes blurred or double vision, chest pain and breathing difficulties.

It is thought the condition has exploded in India due to a lack of drugs available to treat it.

DEADLY INFECTION

But one of the most common fungal infections, aspergillosis, is mostly associated with the flu and has been found in the UK, US, France, Pakistan and India.

Aspergillosis spores are one of the most common types of fungi and like other kinds of mould, thrive in warm, damp environments.

Fungi is able to spread by releasing spores — microscopic biological particles that allow them to reproduce and these spores often contain allergens which can trigger allergic respiratory reactions.

The majority of people who suffer with severe asthma symptoms are allergic to some form of fungus.

A patient with aspergillosis is just sick on a ventilator, and they’ve already got a bad lung disease with Covid. And if they then die, then it’s all attributed to Covid

Dr Darius Armstrong-Jame senior lecturer in respiratory fungal diseases at Imperial College London said that around 10 to 15 per cent of Covid patients at the Royal Brompton caught aspergillosis in hospitals.

Chiller added that aspergillosis can be just as deadly as other infections such as mucormycosis (black fungus).

He said this this is especially the case in those who end up in intensive care with Covid.

In order to successfully diagnose someone with aspergillosis then you have to take samples from the lungs and this process can be difficult if a patient is suffering with Covid-19.

If doctors take a sample then there is a risk of Covid getting into the air in the intensive care ward, and possibly infecting more people.

Professor of infectious diseases and global health at the University of Manchester, David Denning, said it can be difficult to diagnose the condition as there aren't always visible signs.

He explained: "Mucormycosis is very visible … the patients look terrible, they’ve got these black areas on their face, they’re losing their eye … it needs a big-time surgery, it looks dreadful.

“A patient with aspergillosis is just sick on a ventilator, and they’ve already got a bad lung disease with Covid. And if they then die, then it’s all attributed to Covid.”

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