The deadly fungus that preys on coronavirus patients and could have killed thousands

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The deadly fungus that preys on coronavirus patients and could have killed thousands

But a further danger may await — a fungus that experts warn is infecting the weakened lungs of one in three Covid patients in intensive care, and killing up to 70 per cent of those affected.

The fungus in question, Aspergillus fumigatus, is all around us — in the air, soil, food and in decaying organic material such as garden compost. It spreads via microscopic spores, although it can be visible as a grey, wrinkled cushion on damp walls. It has also been found in flower beds in hospital grounds.

Aspergillus fumigatus is an opportunistic fungus that preys on people whose immune systems are seriously weakened by illness.

A further danger may await — a fungus that experts warn is infecting the weakened lungs of one in three Covid patients in intensive care, and killing up to 70 per cent of those affected

When it invades humans, it causes a condition called aspergillosis, which primarily affects the lungs. There the fungus can grow into a lump up to the size of a tennis ball that can be extremely difficult to eradicate.

The infection can develop into invasive aspergillosis, where it spreads to the skin, brain, heart or kidneys.

Once a patient with severe suffocating Covid-19 is through the doors of a critical care unit, they should be in the safest place to receive life-saving help

Aspergillosis hit the news last month when the widow of a Scottish government official, who died after contracting Covid-19, called on the First Minister of Scotland to investigate the hospital where he was being treated.

Andrew Slorance, who led the Scottish government’s response and communications unit, died nearly six weeks after being admitted to Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, Glasgow, last year. He had gone in for cancer treatment, but then contracted Covid-19.

The hospital listed the cause of Mr Slorance’s death as Covid pneumonia. However, his widow, Louise, requested a copy of his medical notes and discovered her husband had also become infected with Aspergillus fumigatus at the hospital.

She believes this may have brought on his death and claims the hospital ‘never mentioned’ the aspergillus infection to her at the time despite the ‘many mentions of it in the medical records’.

The hospital has denied any ‘attempt to conceal information’. It has not, however, answered Good Health’s questions concerning the role of aspergillosis in Mr Slorance’s death.

Experts who have spoken to Good Health say countless Covid patients admitted to critical care units with severe breathing difficulties have then become infected by aspergillus.

Estimates vary over the exact number of critical care patients afflicted. A research press release by investigators at Exeter University in March puts it as high as one in three. An international study in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases in October suggests one in six.

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