Is Overuse Of Zinc Behind Rise Of Black Fungus?

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Black Fungus has suddenly become a dread, as it has come along with Covid-19, and has killed human beings. We, the common people, have no idea how it has become deadly so suddenly and what is the extent of the danger. And now doctors are coming up with theories about the probable cause of the sudden rise of the disease. While they are trying to find the cause honestly, not everybody is convinced. The latest debate on the matter revolves around one such proposition: Whether overuse of zinc a probable cause of the increasing number of covid-19 cases.

It is true that the dread of covid-19 had driven people to try various means to increase immunity so that the body can fight the virus. Two such supplements are vitamin C and zinc tablets, the sale of which has increased phenomenally in last one years. In 2020, according to research firm AIOCD-AWACS, chemists across the country sold around 171 crore pills of Vitamin C and 13 crore pills of Vitamin C combined with other multivitamins in 2020, which the total sale was just double of its sale in 2019. Similarly, the sale of the popular zinc supplement Zincovit increased by 93 per cent. In 2020, it sold total 54 crore tablets as against 28 crores in 2019.

According to Dr. Arunangshu Talukdar of Calcutta Medical College, the overuse of zinc could be a possible cause of the increase of Black Fungus cases. He argues, “All other factors like patients with uncontrolled blood sugar, the condition of the hospitals and use of oxygen masks were there earlier too. So how is it that this fungal infection has increased now?” He identifies the overuse of zinc tablets as a probable cause. A clinical pharmacologist Dr. Shantanu Tripathi also shares the same opinion. He has been quoted as saying that during artificial culture it has been found that such fungus grows rapidly when it gets to feed on zinc.

But not many are convinced. Dr. Narayan Banerjee, a prominent doctor of medicine attached to a renowned private hospital of Kolkata, thinks this proposition is ‘wrong’. He says, “Many diabetic patients have not visited their doctors in last one year and are continuing with the old medicines. Consequently, a lot of them are suffering from uncontrolled blood sugar.” It has already been identified by Union Health Ministry as a major cause along with the high use of steroids for the increasing incidence of Black Fungus cases.

Many others share Dr. Banerjee’s opinion. A state health department official says there is no convincing proof to support the theory that zinc may be the cause. But he feels the common man will do better to avoid the use of vitamins or zinc or any other supplements without doctors’ advice.

(The author Diptendra Raychaudhuri is a senior journalist based in Kolkata. He has a wide range of experience in covering West Bengal politics and has authored several books) 

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