India’s mucormycosis wards

The ‘black fungus’ killing hundreds across India could be related to the country’s highly infectious coronavirus variant, rather than overuse of steroids, Indian specialists believe.

It is thought that the new strain, known as “Delta” or B.1.617, is causing unprecedented damage to the pancreas of otherwise healthy people, triggering sudden onset diabetes and soaring blood glucose levels.

This allows the deadly flesh eating fungus to thrive. The warnings from Indian doctors come amid growing concerns about the spread of the variant in the UK, where Delta is now dominant.

We visited ten hospitals across the western Indian state of Maharashtra, where doctors were treating thousands of patients struck down by the devastating “black fungus”.

Called mucormycosis, the condition is a fast-moving, aggressive infection that attacks a person’s sinuses, lungs and brain and is deadly if not treated.

In the Seven Star Hospital in the western city of Nagpur, ward after ward is filled to the brim with patients who had recovered from Covid-19 yet – despite being previously healthy – were hit by surging blood glucose levels and mucormycosis symptoms.

Prior to Covid-19, Seven Star Hospital would only see several mucormycosis cases in a year. But since mid-March, Dr Shailesh Kothalkar, the hospital’s leading ear, nose, and throat (ENT) surgeon, has treated over 280 patients and operated on 151 people, during gruelling 18 hour days at work.

The sudden explosion in cases during India’s brutal second wave was initially blamed on the overprescription of steroids during Covid-19 treatment – which can provide a cheap, effective treatment to combat severe cases, but also suppress the body’s immune system.

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A clinic in the town of Amravati, Maharashtra, now advertising Mucormycosis tests

Post operative Mucormycosis patient Vikram Trivedi (38) trying to recuperate at the Seven Star hospital in Nagpur. Vikram has had his left eyeball and the roof of his mouth removed to save his life after contracting Mucor.

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