Senior citizens at risk of fungal infection post-Covid

This fungal infection could affect senior citizens surviving Covid-19

Mucormycetes commonly affect the sinuses or the lungs after inhaling fungal spores from the air or the skin

Representative image. Credit: iStock.

Over the last 30 days, doctors have been noticing one more post-Covid complication affecting senior citizens with a bout of fungus.

Mucormycosis is not unknown to the medical world. A rare but serious fungal infection, it is caused by a group of commonly found moulds called mucormycetes. Their crossover into a potentially lethal infection in people happens primarily among those who have health problems or those who take medication that weakens the body’s immune system.

For 64-year-old Geetha (name changed), a Covid-19 survivor who was discharged in September, the reality of being hit by Mucormycosis came home in late October, when she found herself suffering from a fever and sinus manifestations, including a headache.

When doctors subjected her to an MRI scan, they found the presence of fungus in her sinus cavities. “People need to be vigilant. If untreated, mucormycosis can lead to a brain abscess,” said Dr Anoop Amarnath, an expert in geriatric care and a member of the state’s Critical Care Support Unit (CCSU).

The mould commonly affects the sinuses or the lungs after inhaling fungal spores from the air or the skin after the fungus enters the skin through a cut, burn or any other type of skin injury.

“Within a percentage of Covid-19 survivors, it is now being found in nasal and ear cavities,” Dr Amarnath explained.

He added that among the smattering of cases reported in the city, one thing was common: in addition to being Covid-19 survivors, “they are all senior citizens and have undergone immunosuppressive therapies for Covid-19 such as steroids, which is also used as an anti-inflammatory. The condition has been found to manifest two to six weeks after recovery.”

Reported first in China

The first such case was reported in China in July, but since then, the incidences have dropped off.

A Chinese research paper suggested that the condition could possibly be neglected.

In Bengaluru...   

At the Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Chest Diseases (RGICD), Dr C Nagaraja, Director, described the cases as rare.

At Victoria Hospital, Dr C N Jayanthi said the hospital has “not come across this particular complication”.

A government researcher in Bengaluru clarified that there is virtually no tracking of such symptoms in patients because “many patients did not undergo sputum fungal assessment, which itself does not provide all the answers as it is difficult to detect fungus with a single sputum fungal culture”. The researcher added that sometimes, the symptoms are chalked up to Covid-19 or another illness.

Most infections can be treated using an anti-fungal treatment.

Some like Geetha required Functional Endoscopic Sinus Surgery (FESS), Dr Amarnath said, adding that she had since recovered.