'Green Fungus' Explained: All You Need to Know About this Deadly Infection Detected Amid Covid-19

  • 3 years   ago
Green Fungus, Aspergillosis, India fungus, COVID-19 fungus, COVID-19

You’ve probably heard about the cases of so-called 'black', 'white', and 'yellow' fungal infections.

If not, then you are missing out on the latest happenings in the world’s second-most populated nation and the worst-affected country by the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak today — India.

This country in South Asia has tackled the three above mentioned types of fungus in the wake of the pandemic. Now, it is facing a new challenge after the first case discovery of the ‘green’ fungus from a 34-year-old COVID-19 survivor.

What is green fungus? How is it related to COVID-19? Is it a worry for India? Who is at risk? Is it contagious? How can it be prevented? Scroll down for more details.

What is a fungus?

Fungus refers to any of various types of organisms that get their food from decaying material or other living things.

What is green fungus?

It is an infection caused by Aspergillus, a common type of mold that lives indoors and outdoors. The medical name for this disease is Aspergillosis.  It is commonly present in the environment and can be encountered in decaying leaves, compost, plants, trees and grain crops.

What causes this disease?

People can get aspergillosis by breathing in microscopic Aspergillus spores from the environment. 

Most of us breathe in Aspergillus spores every day without getting sick. But, those with weakened immune systems or lung diseases are at a higher risk of catching the infection.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), allergic reactions, lung infections and infections in other organs are among the types of health problems caused by this fungus. 

Is it contagious?

No. Aspergillosis is not contagious and can’t spread between people or between people and animals from the lungs. 

What are the symptoms?

Different types of aspergillosis can cause different symptoms, says CDC. These include:

• Nose Bleeding

• Wheezing

• High Fever

• Cough

• Weakness or Fatigue 

• Weight Loss

• Shortness of Breath

All of the above symptoms were found in the patient who was airlifted from Indore to Mumbai. He recovered, but then started having nose bleeds and high fever. He had also become very weak due to weight loss, according to his doctor.

Allergic Aspergillus sinusitis:

- Stuffiness

- Runny nose

- Headache

- Reduced ability to smell

- Aspergilloma (“fungus ball”):

- Cough

- Coughing up blood

- Shortness of breath

Chronic pulmonary aspergillosis:

- Weight loss

- Cough

- Coughing up blood

- Fatigue

- Shortness of breath

Invasive aspergillosis:

- Fever

- Chest pain

- Cough

- Coughing up blood

- Shortness of breath

- Other symptoms can develop if the infection spreads from the lungs to other parts of the body.

Who can get green fungus infection?

While everyday exposure to Aspergillus is not always a problem, it may cause serious infection. 

People with weakened immune systems, such as COVID survivors, or those who have lung diseases, are at a greater risk of developing health issues due to the infection, added CDC.

Those who have the following are prone to getting infected by the green fungus:

• Cystic fibrosis or asthma

• Tuberculosis

• Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

• Sarcoidosis

The US health body says different types of aspergillosis affect different groups of people such as:

• Allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis (ABPA) most often occurs in people who have cystic fibrosis or asthma.

• Aspergillomas usually affect people who have other lung diseases like tuberculosis.

• Chronic pulmonary Aspergillosis typically occurs in people who have other lung diseases, including tuberculosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), or sarcoidosis.

• Invasive aspergillosis affects people who have weakened immune systems (like hospitalised patients with severe influenza). These include:

- individuals who have had a stem cell transplant or organ transplant

- are getting chemotherapy for cancer

- are taking high doses of corticosteroids.

How can it be prevented?

This kind of rare fungal infection can only be prevented by maintaining good hygiene, as well as oral and physical cleanliness. The following guidelines are recommended by experts:

• Avoid areas with a lot of dust and stored contaminated water. Otherwise, wear an N95 respirator for prevention.

• Avoid activities that involve close contact with soil or dust.

• Wash your face and hands well with soap and water, especially if they have been exposed to soil or dust.

How was it discovered in India?

It was found out after a patient was shifted from Indore to Mumbai by air ambulance for treatment. He underwent a test on suspicion that he had contracted the mucormycosis or black fungus, following which it was examined that he had green fungus. 

Doctors have said it is possibly the first such reported case in the country.

What is the connection between Aspergillosis and COVID?

As per medical professionals, more studies have to be done as there is no research showing the correlation between Covid-19 and green fungus.

Infections like green, black, white, and yellow fungus are not new, and neither are they unique to the COVID-19 virus, FIT reports. But, being associated with COVID has put them in the spotlight like never before.

How were the other fungi first detected in India during the pandemic?

The black fungus or mucormycosis was declared as an epidemic in India under the Epidemic Diseases Act. However, it was followed by reports of white fungus in Patna, and later a case of yellow fungus emerged in Uttar Pradesh's Ghaziabad. According to experts, the white fungus is more dangerous than black fungus due to its acute effect on lungs and other body parts.

How does green fungus differ from other fungi?

Difference Between Mucormycetes and Aspergillus

The black, white and yellow fungus are caused by mucormycetes, which are already present in the environment. 

“They are present throughout the environment, particularly in soil and in association with decaying organic matter, such as leaves, compost piles, and animal dung. They are more common in soil than in air, and in summer and fall than in winter or spring,” said CDC. 

Both mucormycetes and aspergillus aren’t harmful to most people even as they come in everyday contact with the fungus. However, it may attack people with weakened immune systems and cause severe infection.

Note: More research is needed on whether the nature of green fungus infection in people who have recovered from COVID-19 is different from other patients.

As India battles a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and fungal infections, its latest case of green fungus has triggered a new health challenge in the country.

What do you think about the continuous detection of fungi in India? Do you think there will be new discoveries to make a complete spectrum of fungus? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.