New Aspergillosis 'Green Fungus' In COVID-19 Patients: What We Know

Experts believe that all the different fungi should be addressed with their medical terminologies and not colours as these fungal infections are common occurrences.

Madhya Pradesh's Sri Aurobindo Hospital reported the first case of "Green fungus"- Aspergillosis in a 34-year-old man recovering from COVID-19. The man has now been transferred to Hinduja Hospital in Mumbai.

After reports of black fungus, white fungus, and yellow fungus, green fungus is the latest fungal infection that is being reported currently. However, doctors believe that the fungal infections should be identified by their respective medical names instead of associating colours as these are common fungal infections and should not be associated with colours.

Aspergillosis caused by a common mold called Aspergillus that is found both indoors and outdoors. In the case of the 34-year-old man, the doctors suspected mucormycosis or black fungus as it is called. On further inspection the doctors learnt that it was aspergillosis, instead.

BOOM spoke to Dr. Lancelot Pinto, consultant pulmonologist and epidemiologist at Hinduja Hospital in Mumbai to understand why COVID-19 patients are susceptible to different fungal infections and the rise of aspergillosis.

"The combination of suppressed immunity due to COVID-19, the use of steroids, and the rising sugars or previous presence of high sugars make the patients more vulnerable to attract fungal infections. Fungi are present in the air, everywhere. Aspergillus is a common fungus and causes a few infections which when detected earlier can be easily addressed," said Dr. Pinto.

Fatality of Aspergillus

According to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, aspergillus affects people with weakened immune systems or lung diseases. The disease is classified into five different types, all of which affect the lungs but vary in severity.

Allergic forms of aspergillosis such as allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis (ABPA) and allergic Aspergillus sinusitis are generally not life-threatening. This disease does not spread from person-to-person. Invasive aspergillosis, on the other hand, although uncommon, is a serious infection. It adversely affects people who have had organ transplants or stem cell transplants as there have been reports of 59 and 25 per cent deaths in these groups respectively.

Symptoms, Prevention, And Treatment

The symptoms of an aspergillus fungal infection are very similar to asthma. Patients show symptoms of wheezing, shortness of breath, cough, fever, runny nose, swollen faces, loss of smell, coughing of blood.

The disease can be treated with antifungal medications.

"While prevention includes maintaining a clean environment, in the current scenario of COVID-19 patients being at a higher risk, it is also important that patients test their blood sugars and doctors prescribe steroids judiciously," explained Dr. Pinto.

Avoid Colour Names For Fungi

Dr. Randeep Guleria, dean of All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) has asked medical professionals and journalists to avoid calling the fungi by their colours and instead use its medical terminology.

These colours are associated with the colours displayed by the fungi when their cultures are isolated and acted upon with chemicals for identification.

"These fungal infections are now getting more attention as they are linked to COVID-19 side effects, but they have been common even earlier. Associating them with colours is helpful for spreading information but people think that the body starts exhibiting these colours, which is incorrect. This is only the colour displayed in the cultures," concluded Dr. Pinto.

Updated On: 2021-06-17T20:34:33+05:30
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