Dr. Uday Khopkar, who till recently headed the skin disease department at the civic-run KEM Hospital, said they see 50 to 75 cases of fungal infections every day in the outpatient department (OPD). “Patients typically spend a lot of time trying to treat symptoms with over-the-counter combination creams. Another major problem is an interruption in treatment. Patients stop treatment midway and the fungi multiply aggressively,” said Dr. Khopkar, who retired from KEM a few months ago, and now practises in Dadar. “A majority of fungal infections we saw were ringworms,” he said.
Fungi thrive in moist, damp areas of the body. The infection starts with skin changes that worsen with itchiness, redness, etc. Doctors say the infection is commonly seen in the underarm and groin regions, buttocks, inner thighs, and so on. “People self-medicate and mostly use steroid-based creams. While they get temporary symptomatic relief, the fungi’s growth continues. By the time they reach us, the infection is extremely stubborn,” said a doctor from the skin department of J.J. Hospital. Of the daily OPD of 350 patients, nearly 80% come with fungal infections, he said.
The rise in cases and resistance has also led to an increase in the sale of anti-fungal medication. “Over the past two years, the prescriptions of anti-fungal creams and medicines from general practitioners and dermatologists have doubled,” Hakim Kapasi, president of the North West Chemists Association in Mumbai, said. He said a large number of companies have forayed into the anti-fungal medication market, looking at the demand.
Infectious disease specialist Dr. Om Shrivastav said there is not only a rise in the number of infections but there are also newer kinds of fungi. “The humidity in the city and low immunity make it easier for the fungi to be around,” said Dr. Shrivastav, who was one of the main speakers at the recently-organised INFECON 2019 by Jaslok Hospital, an initiative to raise awareness of the containment of infections.