What Is White Fungus? Why Is It Deadlier Than Black Fungus?
While the Coronavirus scare continues to haunt us, many other deadlier diseases are also making their advent to make the pandemic even cruder. Recently, the breakout of black fungus gave us chills down our spine. But this rally of viruses is far from over. There is another one in the queue, i.e., the white fungus.
As the central government of India has already marked Black Fungus or Mucormycosis as another pandemic, White Fungus is knocking at our doors! The deadlier nature of this fungus is way worse than black fungus. However, the infection is not a novel one; it has been around for a while.
The breaking out of the white fungus is not yet as massive as black fungus, but there are a handful of cases that have been found in the COVID-19 patients with low immunity. But why is it deadlier than black fungus? Well, then let’s first try to understand black fungus, as it would help us in understanding the scenario better.
What is Mucormycosis or Black fungus?
Black fungus or mucormycosis is a kind of fungal infection. Found in decaying fruits, soil, manure, etc., the Black fungus usually stays away from humans, as our immune system is capable of fighting it off. But people who get infected with COVID-19 suffer from compromised immunity, which makes them easily get affected with Black Fungus.
Who can get affected by Black Fungus?
As per the Indian Council of Medical Research, people with certain diseases who get affected with COVID-19 are more prone to get infected with Black Fungus. Here are the five conditions which make you get predisposed to the Black Fungus:
- Comorbidity post any transplant or malignancy
- Uncontrolled diabetes
- Prolonged stay in ICU
- Immunosuppression with steroids
- Voriconazole therapy
What symptoms are commonly caused by the Black Fungus infection?
The common symptoms include redness near the eyes, headache, fever, shortness of breath, coughing, blood vomiting, etc. However, there are more symptoms to look for in the case of an immunosuppressed or diabetic COVID patient.
- One-sided facial pain or irritation, including swelling or numbness
- Nasal congestion or blockage, bloody nasal discharge, pain in the cheekbone
- Blackish spots near the bridge of the nose
- Toothache or loosening of teeth
- Blurry vision
- Skin lesion
- Pleural effusion
- Chest pain
What is white fungus?
White fungus, also called candidiasis, is another kind of serious fungal infection that imposes more life risks to a patient. Dr. Rajesh Parikh, Director, Medical Research at Jaslok Hospital, explains, “Fungus or any other infection is all around us; it’s in the environment. It’s only when someone’s immunity is low, they become prone to the infection. As the name suggests, the White Fungus is a fungal infection that occurs mainly among immunocompromised people this includes COVID-19 positive people, people with uncontrolled diabetes, and people on a high dose of steroids.”
Is white fungus deadlier than black fungus?
Well, sadly it is. It has now been established that white fungal infection is deadlier than black fungal infection. It is so because white fungus tends to affect the lungs drastically and can cause pain in the chest, breathlessness and severe cough. Besides, it harshly affects other organs and bodily systems too.
Previously, the white fungus was considered to be a curable infection with commonly found medications and treatments. Usually, hospitals get reported with about five white fungus cases every month. Unlike a completely new virus, like Coronavirus, white fungus has been quite common in rural areas. Often, this fungus gets carried around through dust, hay, or other particles.
This fungus is known as the Aspergillus Flavus in medical parlance, which is not a new one. But it is much deadlier than mucormycosis. In the case of COVID-19 affected patients, it is showing some other kinds of reactions. White fungus is causing certain damages to the patients, which have never been seen before. Thus, making this fungal infection a major concern for both doctors and sufferers.
What are the symptoms of the White Fungus infection?
Dr Om Srivastava, the Director of Infectious Disease, Jaslok Hospital & Research Centre remarked that the symptoms of white fungal infection highly depends on the body part it is affecting. This fungus can easily spread to any part of the body, such as skin, brain, tongue, kidney, genitals, digestive system, etc. In case the infection reaches the digestive tract, the person can feel difficulty in eating and swallowing. As the virus gets inside the skull of your head, it can show symptoms like nausea, headache, etc.
According to Dr Mugdha Tapdiya, the Senior Consultant, Internal medicine, Fortis Hospital, Vasant Kunj- Dehli, the common symptoms of White Fungus can be the following:
- White patches in the skin
- White Tongue
How are these fungi coming in contact with the human body?
Currently, doctors in India are reporting a variety of fungal infections, which are primarily prominent in COVID-19 patients, mostly after 10 days of staying in the ICU.
Usually, there are two species of Candida fungi named Auris and Albicans. There is another kind of fungi group known as aspergillus, which mostly affects the lungs with fatal outcomes.
So, Candida and Aspergillus infections are mainly the cause of a large number of human deaths due to fungal infections. Aspergillus remains in the environment and is mostly found in the air conditioning system. Usually, our immune system is strong enough to prevent such viruses from entering our respiratory tract. But patients who are having a prolonged stay in the ICU with medications face weakening of their immune system.
The fungus, thus, takes advantage of a patient’s weakened immune system to destroy the blood vessel, skin, and other linings of the airways and enters into their respiratory tract.
Why does white fungus bring a higher risk for COVID-19 patients?
Fungal infections mostly occur when there is a compromised immunity or due to the excessive usage of antibiotics, which results in a weakening immune system.
However, experts say that white fungus is not only limited to COVID-19 patients. Anyone with compromised or weak immunity can get infected with it. The chances of white fungal infections are also prominent in cancer patients, older people, HIV patients, and people with uncontrolled diabetes.
As COVID-19 patients go through many medications, treatments with steroids, and prolonged ICU stay, it makes them have a decrease in their immunity. Moreover, steroids can affect their blood sugar levels, which, in turn, increases the chances of getting infected with white fungus. Dr Arunesh Kumar, the senior consultant & head of respiratory medicine/pulmonology of Paras Hospital, says a person can also get infected when he comes in contact with things that contain molds. Hence, he advises “sanitization is important.”
According to doctors, COVID-19 patients are more exposed to the risk of white fungus as it affects the lungs and shows all similar symptoms just like the COVID-19 but tests negative.
Dr Kumar also adds, “Those who have weak immunity like diabetes, cancer patients, and those who are taking steroids for a long period must take special care as they are more at risk. It is also affecting those coronavirus patients who are on oxygen support.”
How to prevent and cure White Fungus?
One of the main reasons behind the severity of white fungal infection is the prolonged treatment of Coronavirus. Dr Parikh suggests that restricted use of steroids is necessary. Also, controlling diabetes can be a safer way to prevent white fungal infection. Moreover, maintaining basic hygiene is of utmost necessity. Wearing masks, washing hands, and maintaining the usage of steroids can mitigate the risk to an effective level.
Experts also suggest that early detection of the infection and giving timely treatment to the patients can reduce their life risks. The treatment for white fungus includes the usage of antifungal agents, which are either given orally or intravenously. Along with this, it is also crucial to maintain post-COVID restrictions and take proper rest so that the immunity level can get back to normal to prevent exposure to such infections.
The continuous news headlines about the advent of the new deadly viruses and fungi show how helpless we are in front of such deadly infections. However, all is not grim, as experts believe that there is no need to panic or to be afraid of the infection, as there are reports of successful recovery from white fungus.
Hence, immediate contact with a doctor and early diagnosis is recommended to fight this deadlier cousin of black fungus. Moreover, following good hygienic practices and taking proper medications also help in lowering the risk of getting affected with white fungal infection.