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Not cow dung or medical oxygen but filthy environment behind mucor: Expert

Nagpur: Breakthrough infections in ICUs and filthy environment were as much responsible for the mucormycosis epidemic within the COVID pandemic as uncontrolled diabetes and indiscriminate use of immunosuppressants among COVID patients, said infectious disease specialist Dr Tanu Singhal on Wednesday at the 108th Indian Science Congress.

Mumbai-based Dr Singhal spoke on secondary bacterial infection among COVID patients and mucormycosis. “It has also been proved that cow dung or medical oxygen cylinders didn’t cause the black fungus like it was reported earlier. Health workers didn’t adhere to infection protocols in ICUs for the fear of contracting COVID. Our dirty environment spread much of the fungal spores,” said Dr Singhal.

India was probably the only country which reported such large number of mucor patients, with over 50,000 getting attacked by the flesh eating fungus in between January to May 2021. “Most of them had rhino orbito cerebral infection – from nose to eyes to brain. It was multi-factorial. One is environment, which is polluted, decaying garbage or matter hosting fungal spores, tropical climate, humidity. Because of reduced immunity, their blood sugar was not controlled, so they got steroids, which exacerbated the problem,” she said.

Dr Singhal explains why only India saw so many mucor patients while COVID spread everywhere in the world. “Spore count in Indian environment is much higher. Mucor thrives in moist matter like garbage. Oxygen cylinders, cow dung, humidifiers, masks were not the cause of black fungus as thought earlier,” she said.

A US study had claimed that excessive use of cow dung which was also used to light pyres of COVID bodies caused the mucor epidemic in India. “PGI Chandigarh carried out a study by burning cow dung in a house to see mucor count. It concluded it was not the reason for mucor,” she said.

“Health workers didn’t adhere to infection protocols in ICU for fear of contracting COVID. Dirty environment in hospitals too was blamed,” she said.

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