Black fungus: Experts flag role of industrial Oxygen

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Aditi Tandon

Tribune News Service

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New Delhi, May 21

With Covid-induced mucormycosis spreading faster across all states, experts have asked the government to determine the possible role of industrial oxygen in the infection.

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Dr Uma Kumar, rheumatology head, AIIMS, New Delhi, said doctors had been using steroids routinely in rheumatology patients, but they had never seen such high cases of mucormycosis.

“Is this Covid playing with the immunity to invite mucormycosis or is it due to the use of industrial oxygen?” Kumar said, urging the ICMR to look into the issue.

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Experts say unhygienic delivery of oxygen to Covid patients could be a potential cause of black fungus infection. The recent shortage of medical oxygen led to industrial oxygen diversion to hospitals, but questions around its clean transport loomed.

Government experts have attributed black fungus epidemic to a combination of Covid, diabetes and irrational steroid use that suppresses immunity.

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Ramakant Panda, another expert, claimed unhygienic delivery of oxygen to patients was the root cause. He said medical oxygen as opposed to industrial oxygen was highly purified. “It undergoes a range of processes such as compression, filtration and purification. Even its cylinders undergo disinfection and cleanliness processes,” he said, pointing to a possible role of unclean delivery of industrial oxygen for Covid treatment use as a probable reason for the black fungus surge.

Meanwhile, the first study by Indian researchers on the spread of mucormycosis published today in international journal Elsevier found overall 101 cases of mucormycosis in Covid patients worldwide — 82 from India and 19 from the rest of the world.

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