Fungal infections even in present times are among the most difficult diseases to manage in humans. We have already seen cases of ‘Black Fungus’( https://h2fcare.com/black-fungus-and-covid-19/ )and now news of something known as ‘White Fungus’ is spreading. So the question arises that why all of a sudden we are hearing so much about fungal infections and how is it that our medical science seems to be surprised? Is it for real!
Most are safe
There are millions of fungal species around us. However, to infect humans four basic things are required. These are high-temperature tolerance, ability to invade the human host, competency in the absorption of eating off human tissues and most important the ability to win from the human immune system. Humans have an advanced and sophisticated immune system that can easily take challenges from all kinds of fungal infections. That is why fungal infections are today among the rarest diseases in humans (https://www.cdc.gov/fungal/index.html).
There are an estimated over 5 million fungal species on our planet. Only about a few hundred have been identified to cause disease in humans. Out of these few hundreds, rarely cause disease in healthy humans.
Our protection shield
As mentioned above, our body is one of the most evolved species around. It becomes almost impossible for fungus to win over it. Firstly fungus needs to have the capability to grow at a high temperature of 37 Deg C or 98.4 Deg F which is extremely rare. Fungus needs to reach the tissues it intends to parasitize. Penetrating human immune system barriers is a herculean task. Even if fungus reaches the tissue it intends to, digesting or absorbing human tissue is not simple and a special capability is required in them. Finally, even if all is achieved, our immune system can identify and eradicate it before it can set foot or cause any cause of concern.
Who are in Danger
Immunocompromised host individuals are breeding grounds for these opportunistic infections. The factors that modify our immune system include diabetes mellitus, neutropenia, undergoing immunosuppressive therapy, use of broad-spectrum antibiotics, long use of steroids, severe malnutrition, certain therapies such as iron chelation, a few cancer treatments, transplants etc. The disease can also be caused if our primary barrier that is the skin is compromised due to surgery, burns, cuts, needle pricks or any trauma.
In the case of Coivd-19 patients, those who underwent treatment involving broad-spectrum antibiotics and steroids are in danger. The danger is less if any other comorbid issues are absent. We need to understand that pathogens are always present around us. Our evolved system ensures we need not worry. However, whenever we modify it to react the way we want or we suppress it, these pathogens can enter and grow on us. Unhygienic environmental conditions, where an already compromised host body faces a challenge in front of a larger number of pathogens, dip our safety chart to further dangerous levels.
Is White actually white!
Zygomycetes were the first fungi which were noted to have caused a human infection. It is from the ‘Mucorales’ family. However, non-Mucor also causes the disease. Rhizomucor, Apophysomyces, Saksenaea, Cokeromycens and many others were found to cause disease in an immunocompromised individual. There is no point giving medical names here. Luckily with the development of diagnostic tools which allow early diagnoses, treatments were easy. Also, several agents available to treat fungal diseases made survival even easier. However, in any case, the stage is important.
These Fungal infections may start as a ‘White’ foamy patch colonizing over an organ tissue. However, as it starts feeding on our tissue, the color may change to tan, brown and later grey.
Fungal infections are not new though rare. It is important to use the anti-biotic and steroids only on the doctor’s recommendation. In most cases where the danger exists, the individual will be kept under observation at the hospital or home. It is important to understand that if the fungal infection site is inside a host’s body, diagnosis is difficult. Symptoms of such an infection will be related to the organ getting affected. Since a person is already undergoing distress due to Covid-19, one has to make sure that all symptoms are shared with the doctor and nothing should be presumed to be caused by viral infection. On the skin, the infection can be seen as rash, bumps or skin irritation.
We have agents available to treat all fungal infections that exists on the planet. Hence if caught early the disease is completely treatable. However, with time the fungi consume certain tissues which become irreversible. If the organ or organ system is compromised to a larger extent the disease can even be fatal.
Do these and Stay safe
- Hygiene is important to ensure that pathogens are kept at bay.
- Once recovered from Covid-19, as per the doctor’s recommendation one must maintain healthy habits.
- Do not consume any medicines without a doctor’s recommendation. Avoid prescriptions on social media.
- Share your symptoms as they occur with your doctor. Remember fungal infection can show up any time after recovery from Covid-19 for up to several weeks.
- Wear protective clothing is required which touching plants, soil or other surfaces that might contain the pathogen.
- Use a mask and ensure that masks are replaced or kept clean. Remember our breath has moisture in it. A damp cool environment is the best breeding ground for fungi.