A number of Covid patients at an Ahmedabad hospital have been diagnosed with a fungal infection - mucormycosis, or black fungus, which can be fatal for transplant recipients, people in ICU or those have long-term immunodeficiency concerns.
Dr Kalpesh Patel, an Associate Professor at the BJ Medical College and Civil Hospital, told news agency ANI 67 such patients, from the ENT ward, had been identified in the past 20 days alone.
"Of these 45 have yet to undergo surgery. We're doing five to seven operations daily," he said.
In Maharashtra at least eight Covid patients died due to the fungal infection, a senior official told news agency PTI, adding that around 200 more were being treated for the same.
News of black fungal infections from Ahmedabad also comes days after doctors at a leading Delhi hospital told PTI "we are seeing a rise again in this dangerous fungal infection".
"In the last two days, we have admitted six cases of mucormycosis. Last year this infection caused a high mortality with many suffering from loss of eyesight and removal of nose and jaw bone," Dr Manish Munjal, a senior ENT surgeon at Delhi's Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, said on Thursday.
Dr Ajay Swaroop, Chairman of the hospital's ENT department, said the use of steroids in treating COVID-19 patients, coupled with the fact that many coronavirus patients have diabetes, could be one reason for the increase in the number of black fungus cases.
On Saturday AIIMS chief Dr Randeep Guleria, while speaking to NDTV, agreed with that statement.
Dr Guleria said "unjustified" high dosage of some of the drugs given to Covid patients - such as steroids - could "further decrease your immune system.. . you are prone to secondary infections".
"Because of Covid your immunity comes down and you are more prone to secondary bacterial and fungal infection, or opportunistic infections. Some of the drugs we give, at levels which are not justified, pre-disposes (one) to these fungal infections," he said.
"If we are getting very high dose steroids for a long time, then you're immunity is low... and if you have diabetes or certain other conditions that further decrease your immune system, then you are prone to getting a secondary infection which could be a fungal infection," he added.
India is struggling to fight a devastating second wave of coronavirus infections that have left an already battered healthcare system on its knees. This morning over four lakh new cases were reported in 24 hours - for the second day running.
Hospital beds, medicines and oxygen are in short supply, and doctors across the country are both overworked and traumatised, as the country battles the Covid crisis.
With input from PTI