‘Black Fungus’ Adds to India’s COVID-19 Distress

‘Black Fungus’ Adds to India’s COVID-19 Distress

Doctors in India are warning against the practice of using cow dung in the belief it will ward off COVID-19, saying there is no scientific evidence for its effectiveness and that it risks spreading other diseases.

Lately, there have been many videos and pictures of people dunking themselves in water mixed with cow dung that has been doing the rounds on social media, and that has created a lot of buzz. Medical experts are against such practices and are saying the practice could lead to an explosion in the number of mucormycosis or “black fungus” cases.

The fungal infection is caused by a group of moulds called mucormycetes that are present everywhere in the environment, including soil and dung. Black fungus mainly affects people who have health problems or those who are taking medicines that lower the body’s ability to fight germs and sickness. It is triggered by the coronavirus. It can affect areas from where it can be inhaled- nose, lungs, or sinus, it can also impact eyes and brain.

In Hinduism, the cow is considered a sacred symbol of life and the earth, and for centuries Hindus have used cow dung to clean their homes and for prayer rituals, believing it has therapeutic and antiseptic properties. However, doctors and scientists in India and across the world have repeatedly warned against practicing alternative treatments for COVID-19, saying they can lead to a false sense of security and complicate health problems.

“There is no concrete scientific evidence that cow dung or urine work to boost immunity against COVID-19, it is based entirely on belief,” Reuters quoted Dr. JA Jayalal, national president at the Indian Medical Association.

According to doctors, close contact with cow dung could increase the chances of recovered Covid patients contracting mucormycosis, commonly known as a black fungus.

Please note, the fungal disease is more likely to affect Covid patients with acute diabetes who have been treated with steroids and immunosuppressants, which weaken the body’s immune system and make it more vulnerable to infections like mucormycosis, doctors said.

“People with diabetes or immunocompromised conditions recently treated with steroids would be at a very high risk of contracting black fungus if they believe in the myth and use dung as a cure for Covid,” Dr. Shailesh Kothalkar, Head and Neck Cancer Surgeon and Director at Nagpur’s Seven Star Hospital told The Print.

Meanwhile, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) website, animal dung is explicitly mentioned as one of the carriers of the fungal moulds, besides decaying organic matter, such as leaves, compost piles.

The doctors say any Covid-19 patient who is diabetic or immunocompromised and has taken steroids should be warned against using cow dung. “This will lead to a phenomenal increase in their chances of catching black fungus,” Dr. Kothalkar added.

Besides, he also said that in the last twenty years, he had operated on only 12 patients with mucormycosis but had been conducting three to four surgeries daily during the COVID pandemic’s deadly second wave.

Other health experts also denounce the practice, citing little scientific evidence to claim that cow dung cures Covid in the first place. While they agree there are no studies to prove a direct relationship between cow dung and the rise of black fungus cases so far, they say it is logical to expect that it could lead to a blow-up in cases.

There are also concerns the practice could contribute to the spread of the virus as it involved people gathering in groups.

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