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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - NEW DELHI — Several Indian states are facing shortages of a drug used to treat black fungus, a rare and potentially fatal infection that is increasingly being detected in COVID-19 patients, health authorities in the country have warned.
The infection, known by doctors as mucormycosis, had been seen in India before the pandemic, but cases are mounting rapidly in coronavirus sufferers and those who have recently recovered. It is caused by mold found in wet environments and can attack the respiratory tract, particularly of those with compromised immune systems.
At least 52 people have died of black fungus in the western state of Maharashtra, which includes the bustling financial center Mumbai, and has been hit hard by the pandemic, according to local health officials. Some 2,000 cases have so far been recorded.
"We are now getting 100 cases daily on average," Dr. Tatyarao Lahane, a senior state health official, told CNN on Wednesday. He said supplies of the antifungal drug amphotericin B were now arriving but that there had been an initial shortage as such case numbers had not been anticipated.
The state ordered 100,000 vials of amphotericin B last week, according to Maharashtra's health minister, Rajesh Tope.
"There are very few districts where there aren't patients (with black fungus)," Tope said, as states across the country, including Uttar Pradesh, Maydhya Pradesh, Delhi and Telangana, appealed for deliveries of the drug.
In Gujarat, a western state north of Maharashtra, the High Court issued an order on Monday warning of "the rapid increase in the cases of flesh-eating black fungal infection called 'mucormycosis.'"
"The shortage of injections being administered for the said disease and the cost of its treatment are also the issues which deserve to be seriously and immediately considered by the State," the order said.
Following the announcement, Gujarat's state government said it had put purchase orders in for 100,000 vials of liposomal amphotericin B injections used to treat the infection.
India's Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers said in a statement Tuesday that there was a sudden surge in demand for the drug, which is manufactured domestically, adding that "the Government is committed to making all possible and necessary efforts to make it available to needy patients ... the shortage is expected to get resolved at the earliest."
Doctors and medical experts say mucormycosis seems to be infecting some COVID-19 patients whose immune systems have been weakened by the virus or who have underlying conditions, like diabetes.
Some have also said that the infections may be linked to humidifiers used in delivering oxygen to coronavirus patients.
The infection is caused by a fungus called mucor, which is found on wet surfaces, V K Paul, head of India's COVID-19 task force, said on May 14.
"If someone has a disease or takes medication which suppresses the immune system or is exposed to wet surfaces they can contract the disease ... (for COVID-19) we are using drugs which suppress our immune system ... when COVID-19 patients receive oxygen which has a humidifier which has water collection which can increase the tendency of the fungus," Paul added. — CNN
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