Home / Science / Health /  Steroid abuse led to black fungus

A research paper by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has confirmed that the inappropriate use of steroids during the second wave of the pandemic led to increased occurrence of fungal infections, or mucormycosis, in covid patients.

Around 40,824 mucormycosis cases were reported from across the country, with 3,229 patients succumbing to it. This prompted ICMR scientists to initiate a multi-site, case-control investigation into the use of steroids and its after effects. According to ICMR, appropriate use of non-rebreather masks during oxygen therapy in covid patients help reduce the risks of black fungus—an invasive disease which affects the nasal cavity, bones, eye and brain with high mortality rate.

Scientists identified factors such as low oxygen milieu, diabetes, inappropriate doses and the duration of glucocorticoid use, immunity issues and prolonged duration of hospital stay with or without mechanical ventilation to be responsible for developing mucormycosis among covid-19 patients.

The study was carried out at 11 sites to analyse archived records for the 1 January-30 September 2021 period. The cases and controls were enrolled between 15 June and 30 September last year. Data was collected using a questionnaire. Among the 1,211 participants, 336 were covid-19 associated mucormycosis (CAM) cases, while 875 were covid-positive non-mucormycosis controls.

The study indicated that the odds of developing CAM was three times higher with the use of methylprednisolone compared to dexamethasone. “Main objective was to examine the monthly trend of CAM cases among in-patients and to identify the factors associated with it. Mucormycosis is a fungal infection caused by Mucorales. When steroids like dexamethasone and methylprednisolone were inappropriately used, it caused immunosuppression. In this case, chances of fungal infection to covid-19 patients, who were given the steroids, increased. Steroids need to be used carefully," Dr Samiran Panda, ex-additional director of ICMR, and one of the authors of the study, said


Priyanka Sharma

Priyanka Shamra is a health and pharma journalist with nearly nine years of field reporting experience. She is a special correspondent with Mint. Her beat includes covering the Ministry of Health and Department of Pharmaceuticals. She also covers the Ministry of Women and Child Development and the Department of Biotechnology.
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