'Green fungus' explained. Causes, symptoms, prevention

Published on Jun 17, 2021 10:23 AM IST

"Green fungus" or Aspergillosis is an infection caused by a common mold, Aspergillus, which lives indoors as well as outdoors.

"Green fungus" can be prevented by maintaining good hygiene and oral and physical cleanliness.(Reuters/Representative image)
"Green fungus" can be prevented by maintaining good hygiene and oral and physical cleanliness.(Reuters/Representative image)
By | Written by Meenakshi Ray, New Delhi

"Green fungus" infection was reported in a Covid-19 survivor in Madhya Pradesh's Indore, in what doctors have said is possibly the first such reported case in the country. The 34-year-old, who recovered from Covid-19, was shifted to Mumbai's Hinduja Hospital by air ambulance for treatment, reports said on Tuesday.

The man was being treated in Indore's Aurobindo Hospital for the last one-and-a-half-month. "He had 90 per cent lung infection. During diagnosis, green fungus was detected in his lungs which is different from Mucormycosis or Black Fungus. This possibly is the first green fungus case in the country," Apoorva Tiwari, district data manager with the health department in Indore, was quoted as saying by ANI.

"Green fungus" case

Dr Ravi Dosi, head of the department of chest diseases at Sri Aurobindo Institute of Medical Sciences (SAIMS), told PTI that the man underwent a test on suspicion that he had contracted black fungus or mucormycosis. But he was instead found to have "green fungus" or aspergillosis infection in his sinuses, lungs and blood. "The patient recovered. But then he started having nose bleeds and a high fever. He had also become very weak due to weight loss," Dr Dosi said.

Dr Dosi also cautioned that more research was needed on whether the nature of "green fungus" infection in people who have recovered from Covid-19 is different from other patients. All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) director Randeep Guleria has said people must not categorise fungal infections based on their colour and that should use the medical names of the diseases instead.

What causes "green fungus"?

Aspergillosis is an infection caused by a common mold, Aspergillus, which lives indoors as well as outdoors. People can get aspergillosis by breathing in microscopic Aspergillus spores from the environment. Most of us breathe in Apergillus spores every day without getting sick but those with weakened immune systems or lung diseases are at a higher risk of developing health issues.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), allergic reactions, lung infections and infections in other organs are among the types of health problems caused by Apergillus. However, Aspergillosis is not contagious and can’t spread between people or between people and animals from the lungs.

Who can get "green fungus" infection?

The US health body says different types of aspergillosis affect different groups of people.

Allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis (ABPA) most often occurs in people who have cystic fibrosis or asthma. Aspergillomas usually affect people who have other lung diseases like tuberculosis. Also called a “fungus ball.” Chronic pulmonary aspergillosis typically occurs in people who have other lung diseases, including tuberculosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), or sarcoidosis.

Invasive aspergillosis affects people who have weakened immune systems, such as people who have had a stem cell transplant or organ transplant, are getting chemotherapy for cancer, or are taking high doses of corticosteroids. Invasive aspergillosis has been described among hospitalised patients with severe influenza.

What are the symptoms of "green fungus"?

Different types of aspergillosis can cause different symptoms, says CDC. The symptoms of allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis (ABPA) are similar to asthma symptoms, including wheezing, shortness of breath, cough and fever (in rare cases).

Among the symptoms of allergic Aspergillus sinusitis are stuffiness, runny nose, headache and reduced ability to smell. Symptoms of an aspergilloma or “fungus ball” include cough, coughing up blood and shortness of breath. Weight loss, cough, coughing up blood, fatigue and shortness of breath are reported in those who get chronic pulmonary aspergillosis.

Fever is a common symptom of invasive aspergillosis, which usually occurs in people who are already sick from other medical conditions. It can be difficult to know which symptoms are related to an Apergillus infection. However, the symptoms of invasive aspergillosis in the lungs fever, chest pain, cough, coughing up blood and shortness of breath. CDC says other symptoms can develop if the infection spreads from the lungs to other parts of the body.

How can we prevent getting "green fungus" infection?

Doctors say rare fungal infections can be prevented by maintaining good hygiene and oral and physical cleanliness. People should try to avoid areas with a lot of dust and stored contaminated water. They should wear an N95 respirator for prevention if they cannot help going to there areas. Avoid activities that involve close contact to soil or dust can also help. People should keep washing their face and hands with soap and water, especially if they have been exposed to soil or dust.

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