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Newly discovered fungus also causes mucormycosis, but not found in any covid patient so far

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BHUBANESWAR: A newly discovered fungus Cunninghamella arunalokei by researchers of AIIMS Bhubaneswar from an Odisha patient, also causes mucormycosis. However, the fungus has not been found in any Covid-mucormycosis patient so far.

The research article on the fungus was published in the Journal of Fungi on Thursday. Vinaykumar Hallur, associate professor of microbiology department, AIIMS Bhubaneswar, and lead researcher of this finding said Mucorales, a complex fungal group, cause an infectious disease like mucormycosis. “Our new discovered species is a member of this group,” he added.


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He said mucormycosis was there in the nineteenth century too, but now it is being discussed worldwide after many Covid patients were diagnosed with this fungal infection. “As of now we do not have any other case of mucormycosis due to the new species of fungus,” he added. Hallur said a 26-year-old patient from Odisha had come to their institute in 2018 before the Covid time. He had mucormycosis. “My colleague C Preetam, additional professor of ENT department, had sent the sample to me for further analysis. When the fungus grew in the laboratory, it was looking little different from the regular fungi causing mucormycosis,” he added.

The researcher said the patient had no risk factor for mucormycosis and was a healthy fellow. “Usually, this fungal infection happens to people who are diabetic, taking steroids and suffering from Covid. Even the fungus was looking different from other fungi under the microscope as well. I thought this is something new,” said Hallur.



The microbiologist said they contacted fungal infection experts at the Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER), Chandigarh with the help of his department head Baijayantimala Mishra and AIIMS Bhubaneswar director Gitanjali Batmanabane for confirmation of the finding. “The PGIMER has analysed our samples. We both had started working on this,” he added.


The two institutes conducted DNA analysis, phylogenetic analysis and whole genome sequencing. “Finally, we found that it is a novel species of Cunninghamella. We named the fungus after my teacher Arunaloke Chakrabarti, head of medical microbiology department, PGIMER, Chandigarh. Without his guidance and teaching, we could not have achieved this feat. So, it is a Guru Dakshina from my side ahead of the teacher’s day,” said Hallur.


AIIMS Bhubaneswar has been designated as a reference centre for fungal infection in east India. The hospital will be setting up an Advanced Molecular Diagnostic and Research Centre for Fungi sponsored by the ICMR. “We have a team in our institute who work on suspected fungal infections. Anybody who is having difficulties in identifying a fungus or treating a patient with life-threatening fungal infection, we can help them,” he added.

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August 20, 2021, 9:34 pm





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