The multi-speciality clinic screens potential patients and catches the infection early, to reduce deaths and complications.

Ground report Inside a first-of-its-kind black fungus screening centre
news Health Saturday, June 12, 2021 - 10:53

This story is a part of the TNM COVID-19 reporting project. To support this project, make a payment here

Mucormycosis or black fungus is a rare fungal infection that has been reported in thousands of COVID-19 patients in India. Last week in Tamil Nadu alone, over 600 cases and nearly 20 deaths due to mucormycosis were reported. One of the measures taken by the Tamil Nadu government against black fungus is a first-of-its-kind screening centre in Chennai. TNM visited this centre, located in the Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital in the city. The mission of this centre is clear — to catch the black fungus infection as early as possible in order to prevent complications or deaths from the disease. Once the fungal infection spreads to the eyes, then the patient might have to get the infected eye removed, if the antifungal drugs do not work on the eyes. The hospital saw three black fungus deaths, and all of them were patients who got diagnosed late. The fungal infection had spread to a portion of their brain by then. 

Doctors at the hospital state that if patients come and get tested as soon as they start seeing symptoms, then the chances of saving their eyes and treating them without complications are higher. In order to catch infections early and make it convenient for patients, the centre has eight different specialities under the same roof. This includes an ENT surgeon, an eye doctor and a general physician among others. There is also an in-house microbiologist and a mycologist who test patient samples for the fungus. If the samples test positive, the patient is immediately admitted to the black fungus ward inside the Rajiv Gandhi hospital. 

Dr R Muthukumar, Director, Institute of ENT at the Rajiv Gandhi Government Medical Hospital tells TNM that most patients coming to the centre are in stages 1 and 2 of the fungus and in rare cases stage 3. “Stage one and two is when the infection is in the nose and paranasal sinuses and stage three is when it spreads to the eyeball,” he adds. 

Symptoms in the eyes can include blurred vision, decreased vision, watery eyes, redness and congestion of eyes. Severe symptoms include blindness, double vision, protrusion of eyeball, etc. Those who do not react to the antifungal injection, which is in shortage in most hospitals, to the eyeball will have to get their eyes removed. The hospital has a few patients who have had their infected eye removed surgically.  Doctors advise patients to always watch out for symptoms of black fungus and get screened at the earliest. 

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