India has registered over 8,800 cases of deadly “black fungus” in a growing epidemic of the disease.
The normally rare infection, called mucormycosis, has a mortality rate of 50%, with some only saved by removing an eye.
But in recent months, India saw thousands of cases affecting recovered and recovering Covid-19 patients.
Doctors say there is a link with the steroids used to treat Covid. It affects the sinuses, the brain and the lungs, and can be life-threatening in diabetic or severely immuno-compromised individuals, such as cancer patients or people with HIV/Aids.
Experts say the disease kicks in about 12 to 18 days after recovery from Covid.
The western states of Gujarat and Maharashtra have reported more than half of the reported cases. At least 15 more states have reported between eight and 900 cases. Following the rise in cases, India’s 29 states have been told to declare the disease an epidemic.
Newly opened wards to treat patients suffering from the disease around the country are filling up fast.
At a state-run Maharaja Yeshwantrao Hospital in the central Indian city of Indore, the number of patients had leapt from eight a week ago, to 185 on Saturday evening.
The majority of the patients had recovered from Covid-19 and were male. Most of them had been treated with steroids, and all had underlying conditions, mainly diabetes.
A separate study by four Indian doctors has looked at more than 100 cases of Covid-19 patients who had contracted mucormycosis. It found 79 of them were men, and 83 of them suffered from diabetes.
Another study of 45 black fungus patients in two Mumbai hospitals found that all were diabetics or diagnosed with diabetes on admission. They all had very steep blood sugar levels.