India said on Friday that it was working to alleviate the shortage of a drug used to treat a rare fungal disease that strikes patients with COVID-19 as its healthcare system shifts under a massive wave of coronavirus infections.
Cases of mucormycosis, or “black fungus,” a potentially serious complication that causes blurred or double vision, chest pain, and difficulty breathing, have increased in India, especially among patients with COVID-19. Read more
On May 19, at least 7,250 cases were found across the country, local media reported.
“In our battle, another new challenge for the black mushroom has also emerged these days,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi posted on Friday.
India has the second highest number of COVID-19 cases in the world and has reported around 250,000 infections and 4,000 deaths daily.
With the increase in cases of mucormycosis, the Ministry of Health of India said it wanted to get ropes in more companies to produce the antifungal drug amphotericin B which is used to treat it and also increase imports.
That would result in a nearly 250 percent increase in supply to about 570,000 roads in June, the ministry said Friday.
Some Indian states like Maharashtra, home to the financial capital Mumbai, said they ran out of amphotericin B as cases of black fungus increased and they had asked federal authorities to provide more doses.
“A patient needs 60 to 100 injections (of amphotericin B) depending on the severity of the disease. With the current load of cases, we need more than 150,000 injections,” Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh told reporters Tope.
The Western state has so far reported 1,500 cases of mucormycosis and 850 patients are in treatment.
Overall, the figure for COVID-19 infection in India stands at 26.03 million, with a death toll of 291,331, according to data from the health ministry on Friday.
The country conducted about two million tests Thursday, but experts have said infections and deaths could be five to ten times higher than official estimates as the virus spreads to the vast hinterland. Read more
India aims to double its testing capacity to 4.5 million per day by the end of June, 60% of which would be through rapid antigen testing, according to the government.
As part of the effort, the Indian-administered Indian Medical Research Council (ICMR) has this week approved home testing for COVID-19, using rapid antigen testing.
These tests, less accurate than the RT-PCR method, are only advised for symptomatic cases and immediate contacts of laboratory-confirmed positive cases, according to the state ICMR.
“In rural or rural areas, rapid antigen testing is the backbone of testing and this should be encouraged,” ICMR chief Balram Bhargava told reporters.
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