New Delhi: Mucorales, a group of dung-loving fungi, was behind the epidemic of black fungus that killed or maimed thousands of patients undergoing treatment for Covid in India in 2021, says a report in SciDev.Net.
Mucorales-rich cow excrement used as fuel in cooking and rituals in the country, says a study published in mBio, was behind Mucormycosis—a dangerous infection caused by Mucorales fungi.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that Mucormycosism has an overall mortality rate of 54 per cent.
Remember, India is home to world's largest bovine population with more than 300 million and counting.
India reported 51,775 cases of mucormycosis until November last year, prompting the government to declare it an epidemic.
Jessy Skaria, author of the study, told SciDev.Net that most physicians and researchers attributed the increased Covid19-associated mucormycosis in India to a combination of SARS-Cov-2 viral infection with diabetes and treatment using steroids.
Skaria said that the study looked at the unique local causes in India considering the fact that same factors were behind Covid existing in other countries too.
Burning Mucorales-rich cow dung and crop stubble may lead to Mucorales spores getting released into environment, according to the report.
Citing studies she said that Mucorales could be detected in 14 per cent of patients in intensive heathcare units in India.
Mucormycosis could be responsible for an average of 65,500 deaths a year, she added.
The paper pointed at the omnipresent use of cow dung in traditional life in India. They include cow dung being used as an ingredient in ayurvedic medicines, applied on bodies and burned for fumes for purification in festivals alongside drinking cow urine.
Skaria found incidence of mucormycosis far lower in Kerala and West Bengal than was in Maharashtra and Gujarat.
Both these states banned cow slaughter but Kerala where there was no ban on cow slaughter never used cow dung as fuel.
The paper observed the religious and political rhetoric during covid inspired many Indians to liberally use cow dung and urine to prevent covid 19.
Meanwhile, the study linked the unusual spike in mucormycosis in Iran during pandemic to the burning of the burning of donkey dung to produce "anbarnesa smoke"—a traditional medicine