What is Black Fungus and White Fungus? How is it Transmitted? Here's All You Need to Know

·6-min read

Since one year our country is fighting with corona virus and this year fungus joined hand with virus to increase the suffering of humans. Black and white fungus is all over in the news and all of us are fearful about it. So many questions pop up in our mind about this fungus. Here are some answers.

What is black fungus and white fungus?

  • Mucormycosis or black fungus is an infection caused by a type of fungus that forms black colour colonies in infected tissues.
  • Candida or white fungus is an infection caused by a type of fungus that forms white colour colonies in infected tissues.
  • How it is transmitted?

    It is transmitted mainly through the inhalation and ingestion of fungal spores present in air. Rarely it can also enter into the body through cuts in the skin or due to some trauma.

    From where it comes?

    Like other microbes i.e. bacteria and virus, fungus is also present in surrounding environment. It is commonly found in soil, air and even in nose and mucus of humans.

    Does it spread through air?

    Yes. As the spores are present in air it is almost impossible to avoid the spread.

    Can fungus spread from person to person?

    No. fungal infection is non-contagious.

    Are all of us susceptible to get infection?

    No. As the microbes (bacteria, virus or fungus) are present in air it is not possible to avoid their entry into our body but not all individual will get the infection. It is all about how immune we are i.e. how strong our immune system to check spread of fungus in our body is? A healthy immune system fights with microbes at the point of entry and limits their further growth hence the immunocompetent individuals are not susceptible to black fungus disease.

    Who is susceptible to it?

    Immunocompromised individuals are susceptible to infection. Individuals above the age of 60 years, or having chronic uncontrolled diabetes, chronic kidney disease, chronic liver disease, COPD, Asthma, TB, or individuals who are on immunosuppressant therapy like steroids etc. for chronic diseases like cancer or after organ transplant, prolonged antibiotic use, prolonged hospital stay, Poor nutrition, tobacco chewing, smoking, alcohol are susceptible.

    Can every patient of COVID gets black and white fungus infection?

    No. Black and white fungus infection is a rare infection, not all the patients of COVID get its infection.

    Why this infection is increasing in COVID patients?

  • COVID itself weakens the immunity, so bacteria and fungus get the opportunity to grow (opportunistic infection).
  • Drugs like steroids used in treatment of COVID reduce the number of Lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell whose function is to defend our body against bacteria, viruses, and fungus. These drugs save life of the patient by reducing inflammation produced by intense immune response against the virus. The reduced count of lymphocytes leads to opportunistic fungal infection in Covid-19 patients. There is a higher chance of occurrence of Mucormycosis and Candida infection in patients whose immune system is not functioning well.
  • Drugs like antibiotics used to control the secondary bacterial infection, also limits the growth of beneficial bacterial which protect us from fungus.
  • Excessive use of zinc may also be responsible as it acts as a catalyst for fungal growth.
  • Prolonged use of oxygen (mainly industrial oxygen) may also be the reason.
  • Steam leads to create a favourable atmosphere for fungal growth around the mouth and nose.

    Should these drugs be stopped?

    No. These drugs are lifesaving in treatment of COVID.

    How to prevent fungal infection while taking these drugs?

    The drugs should only be taken under strict medical supervision of registered medical practioner (RMP). RMP knows the rationality of prescribing drugs i.e. an appropriate drug to the right patient at right time in right dose, frequency and duration. Misuse of these drugs due to self-medication by the patients themselves or by the advice of quacks is responsible for opportunistic infections and many other problems.

    Are any natural products like ‘kadha’ also responsible?

    Anything if taken in excess can cause some problem. The contents of kadha also having antibacterial and steroidal properties so yes it can also contribute in addition to allopathic drugs. Many of such natural products are rich in minerals like zinc and iron which acts as catalyst for fungal growth.

    Can this infection occur without COVID also?

    Yes. The infection may occur in any immunocompromised individual with or without COVID.

    Is black fungus infection fatal?

    Yes. Mucormycosis or Black fungus is rare but potentially fatal condition

    What are the symptoms of black fungus disease?

    Depending on the area involved there are various signs and symptoms.

    Rhino orbital cerebral Mucormycosis: Infection occurs when fungal spores are inhaled. It infects the nose, orbit of eye / eye socket, oral cavity and can even spread to the brain. Symptoms include headache, nasal congestion, nasal discharge (green colour), pain in sinus, bleeding nose, swelling on face, lack of sensation on face and skin discoloration.

    Pulmonary Mucormycosis: When spores are breathed in and reach the respiratory system, it affects the lungs. Symptoms are fever, chest pain, cough and coughing of blood.

    The fungus can also infect the gastrointestinal tract, skin, and other organs but the most common form is Rhino cerebral Mucormycosis.

    What are the methods to detect black fungus infection?

    Black fungus is suspected by clinical symptoms followed by radiological investigations like MRI. To confirm the infection, biopsy has to be done in which a small area of tissue is dissected out and observe under microscope to see the colony of black fungus in culture.

    Is this condition treatable?

    Yes. It is treatable if diagnosed early with some anti-fungal drugs like Amphotericin and posaconazole. Surgical debridement is required in some cases i.e. removal of infected tissue.

    Is white fungus infection fatal?

    No. Candidiasis or white fungus is not fatal.

    Is white fungus infection treatable?

    Yes. Candidiasis or white fungus is treatable completely by quite less expensive anti-fungal drugs.

    How to protect ourselves from it?

  • Wearing clean face mask is most effective way to prevent entering of fungal spores in our body through nose and mouth. Wash or change the mask frequently.
  • Wash the cuts, bruises or any wound with water instantly.
  • Take treatment of COVID strictly under medical supervision of RMP. Do not self-medicate. Do not fall prey to Quacks. Steam inhalation and ‘kadha’ or other such natural products should not be taken in excess for limitless period.
  • The author, Dr. Niket Rai, MBBS, MD, Maulana Azad Medical College and Associated Lok Nayak Hospital, Delhi. Views expressed are personal

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