Black fungus: Experts to study causes behind rise in cases in Karnataka

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Experts in Karnataka will study whether the rise in the mucormycosis cases is linked to use of industrial oxygen and its possible contamination.

Deputy Chief Minister C N Ashwath Narayan, who is also the head of the state’s COVID task force, held a meeting on Sunday with the treatment protocol committee where the possible sources of the infection were discussed.

Noting that the state has recorded about 700 cases of black fungus infections in the last week, he directed experts to find its source, with doubts being expressed about oxygen supply, quality of piping and cylinders used for it. Accordingly, a team of microbiologists will start to work towards this from Monday, his office said in a release.

The country used to record about 100 cases of black fungus a year earlier but the state has recorded about 700 cases in the last week. This surge has been the cause of anxiety, Narayan was quoted as saying. Also, black fungus cases are not spotted in other COVID hit countries, but they are occurring only in India, he said.

Dr Sampath Chandra Prasad Rao, skull surgeon, Manipal Hospital (Bengaluru) made the presentation about mucormycosis at the meeting and felt the probable reasons for the surge in black fungus may be contamination, either due to low-quality cylinders or low-quality piping system at the ICU level in hospitals.

It may also be caused because of contamination at the industry level from where the oxygen is being supplied or due to low standard of sterilization or any other such reasons. Suspicion was raised that it may be due to usage of ordinary tap water in ventilators, Rao said.

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“To meet the rise in demand, industrial oxygen is being procured in large quantity and questions have been emanated, about, whether the oxygen supplied from industries matches with the quality of medical oxygen or not. This could also be one of the reasons,” he said.

The Deputy Chief Minister asked the microbiologists to record the clinical history of the patient affected by mucormycosis and to do the data analytics.

Simultaneously, he has also instructed them to study the source of oxygen supply at the hospital, quality of piping and cylinders and quality of water used for ventilators, and also quality at the source point of supply at the industry/plant level.