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Terrifying COVID Complication Follows India's 2nd Wave

A rare fungal infection is plaguing survivors
By Liz MacGahan,  Newser Staff
Posted May 9, 2021 3:55 PM CDT

(Newser) – As if India needed its bad situation to get worse, a rare fungal infection known as mucormycosis is cropping up among some COVID survivors. It's caused by the common mucor fungus, which most people are exposed to without suffering any ill effects. But some COVID patients, particularly those with diabetes, are losing their sight, eyes, and even jaw bones after being infected, the BBC reports. "It is a fungus that has a strong relation to diabetes," Dr. VK Paul, head of India’s COVID task force, tells the New York Times, noting that it's rare to see the infection in someone without diabetes—a condition that more than 10% of India's adults have. Some doctors suspect a link to steroids administered to lessen the body’s strong immune response to COVID.

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As one Mumbai-based eye surgeon puts it, "Diabetes lowers the body's immune defenses, coronavirus exacerbates it, and then steroids which help fight Covid-19 act like fuel to the fire." He said he saw 40 patients with mucormycosis in April, and about 25% of them lost an eye, a move taken to prevent the infection from getting to the brain. For others, the outcome is worse: One Mumbai hospital saw 24 cases in the last two months, versus its typical six per year; 11 lost an eye and 6 died. Most were sickened about two weeks after recovering from COVID. The condition is treated with an antifungal that costs about $50 per day and has to be given daily for 8 weeks, the BBC reports.
(Read more COVID-19 stories.)

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