Earlier this week, health officials in India sounded the alarm that "black fungus" infections called mucormycosis were popping up among COVID-19 patients and survivors — especially those with diabetes — at alarming rates.
Now, the same appears to be happening in neighboring Pakistan, according to The News International, the country's largest English-language newspaper. Several hospitals in Pakistan have reported mucormycosis deaths in recent days, but experts suspect that there are actually even more unreported cases, as doctors may not notice the infection on top of the severe COVID-19 symptoms they're already busy treating.
"We have seen at least five cases of mucormycosis also called black fungus among serious COVID-19 patients under treatment at the Intensive Care Unit at the health facility," a physician from a hospital in Karachi, Pakistan told The News. "At least four patients died due to this complication. At least two more centers also have reported mucormycosis cases among COVID-19 patients."
The actual fungus is fairly common, but it seems to take hold in diabetes patients who have had longer hospital stays for their coronavirus infections. Doctors believe that the steroids used to treat COVID-19 tend to temporarily weaken patients' immune systems, allowing the fungus to thrive in their brains and lungs.
"The COVID-19 patients already have low immunity and they are also given steroids so they become an easy target of black fungus," the same physician told The News.
Officials in Pakistan told the publication that they weren't being informed about mucormycosis infections, so it's not yet clear what steps the country might take to prevent more cases.
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READ MORE: ‘Cases of Black Fungus emerge across Pakistan’ [The News International]
More on mucormycosis: Doctors Alarmed By Outbreak of "Black Fungus" That Infects Patients' Brains