Many people suffering from COVID-19 have recently been diagnosed with black fungus disease, also known as mucormycosis. The fungus spreads through the sinuses and into the intraorbital and intracranial areas. Patients will die in 50-80% of cases if the disease progresses unchecked.
Both authors are interested in fungi and are plant biologists in black fungus. It rang a bell when we first learned of mucormycosis last year, from reports from Europe.
Fungi are most often seen in people’s kitchens, when fruits rot or bread becomes mouldy. Fungi have been around for 400 million years and play an important role on the planet. They have aided plants in their transition from marine to terrestrial environments, and they continue to assist them in obtaining minerals.
What are the symptoms of Black fungus?
Fungi decompose organic waste and recycle nutrients trapped in leaves and wood. Some of them have developed into plant pathogens, which infect plants, replicate, and spread to other plants, causing havoc in the process. The black fungus Phytophthora infestans, which wiped out the country’s staple potato crop, was to blame for the great Irish famine of 1845, which killed a million people.
Though fungal diseases are widespread in plants, humans are only affected by a small percentage of them. The fact that animals, including humans, have developed complex immune systems is one cause.
When the immune system is weakened by another infection, however, otherwise harmless fungi take advantage of the situation and infiltrate human tissues. Opportunistic diseases are what they’re called.
– Despite this, fungi seldom cause life-threatening diseases, unlike their pathogenic bacterial counterparts.
– A few fungi, such as the Candida yeast, may sometimes initiate a severe infection.
– Candida can live on healthy people’s skin as well as inside their mouths, throats, and vaginal canals without causing any problems.
– It may cause oral thrush, diaper rash, and vaginal infections if the host’s body has been compromised by another disease or drugs.
Mucoralean fungi pose even less of a threat. Mucor and Rhizopus are two of these genuses. Molds can be found in a variety of places, including dirt, compost, animal dung, rotting wood, and plant matter. They’re the black growth on old fruits and bread that you’ve probably seen. Mucoralean fungi are the first to colonise plant matter that has died or decayed. They quickly deplete the limited supply of simple carbohydrates before competing with other fungi for more complex carbohydrates including cellulose.
More about the infection
Mucormycosis infections have become more common in the last decade, owing to a rise in the number of organ transplants. People who have had organ transplants rely on immunosuppressive drugs to prevent their bodies from rejecting the new organs, but they are often vulnerable to infection in this condition.
Mucormycosis is more likely to occur in people who have COVID-19, HIV/AIDS, and other viral diseases, congenital bone marrow disease, extreme burns, tumours, and untreated or irregularly treated diabetes. Since steroids suppress the immune system, COVID-19 patients who have obtained steroids are particularly vulnerable.
What happens in black fungus?
Inhaled spores in healthy animals are easily destroyed by white blood cells, according to experiments with rats and rabbits. However, if the immune system of the host is suppressed, the body develops less white blood cells. The spores germinate and grow rapidly in this state, forming thin, wire-like tubes that branch out and penetrate blood vessels, killing them.
Mucor travels from the sinuses to the lungs, brain, and central nervous system as it attacks them. Fever, headache, reddish and swollen skin around the nose or eyes, facial pain, coughing up bloody or dark fluids, and shortness of breath are all common symptoms of mucormycosis.