Fungi have always been found to thrive in filthy environments, manifesting themselves in many colours. However, the different hues don’t make them any attractive. The “yellow fungus” as it’s commonly called, is said to have been reported only in reptiles and is caused by Mucor septicus. Their physical appearance is found to be similar to the Dog vomit slime mold, now grouped under Protista, though earlier belonged to the Fungi kingdom. This infectious disease gathered the world’s attention by its first report among human beings in the recent pandemic of SARS-CoV2. COVID patients with a compromised immunity found themselves a prey to the yellow variant, occurring alongside the black fungus, referred to as Mucormycosis and the white fungus.
Yellow slime mold growing on rocks
Speciation and genetics of the yellow fungus
The term “yellow fungus” by itself seems a misnomer. Experts believe that any fungus producing yellow molds could be called a yellow fungus. Some microbiologists opine that this is likely to be Aspergillus flavus (flavus meaning yellow in Greek). Further genetic studies are needed in this regard to understand the genetics and pathology of the organism. However, if it happens to be Aspergillus, the extensive organ damage can be attributed to the toxins they produce, called as the Aflatoxins.
Aspergillus colonies growing on a petri plate
What is Progress of Infection
The Mucormycetes causing white and black fungus is prevalent in the environment and present with obvious early symptoms but turn fatal only when they end up affecting the lungs and other vital organs. In contrast, the yellow fungus follows a very silent route and presents itself only after the failure of vital organs internally and the patient seems normal until then.
Causes of the fungus yellow
Though they grow primarily among contaminated food and fecal matter, a compromised immune system among those with COVID or any other similar viral disease, cancer, chronic medical conditions such as uncontrolled diabetes mellitus, immunodeficiency or those on immunosuppressive medications post-transplant pose a potential risk to acquire this fatal infection.
Mold growing on contaminated food
Comparison of Symptoms
Unlike Mucormycosis, wherein the patients complain of chest pain, breathlessness, toothache and facial pain, the patients with yellow fungus, which manifests itself at a later stage, are found to be lethargically associated with weight loss and loss of appetite. As the disease progresses, with organ failure and malnourishment, the patients present with sunken eyes, delayed wound healing, pus discharge and necrosis.
Pus discharge from a non-healing wound
What is Treatment of yellow fungus
Like the other systemic fungal infections, the intra-venous administration of Amphotericin-B is the preferred treatment regimen.
However, it is necessary to treat the underlying cause of infection by altering the immunosuppressive medication dosage or appropriate treatment for the recovery of the patient from COVID-19, etc. A thorough evaluation of all vital systems of the patient is necessary to rule out significant organ damage, requiring an elaborate management plan.
Precautions of fungus
“Prevention is better than cure” is an age-old statement, pertinent even today.
- A proper, clean, hygienic environment can discourage the growth of the pathogenic bacterial and fungal colonies.
- Well-ventilated rooms are ideal to hinder fungal growth especially in countries like India where we have a hot and humid climate for the most of the year.
- It is essential to dispose of stale food and fecal waste.
- Any co-morbidity must immediately be attended to.
- Control of COVID infection with Remdesivir, timely oxygen and ventilator support is the key to halting the progression of the yellow fungus.
Oxygen support for COVID treatment of patient