Indians have been warned against the practice of using cow dung in the belief it will ward off COVID-19.
In the state of Gujarat in western India, some people have been going to cow shelters once a week to cover their bodies in cow dung and urine in the hope it will boost their immunity, or help them recover from the disease.
Dr J. A. Jayalal, national president at the Indian Medical Association, said: “There is no concrete scientific evidence that cow dung or urine work to boost immunity against COVID-19, it is based entirely on belief.”
Gujarat is one of the places said to have recorded cases of mucormycosis, according to media reports, along with Maharashtra and its capital Mumbai.
Indian authorities have not published national data on mucormycosis but insist there is no major outbreak.
Nishant Kumar, a consultant ophthalmologist at Hinduja hospital in Mumbai, said: “Previously if I saw one patient a year, I now see about one a week.”
It is an added complication for India’s overwhelmed hospitals, which are desperately short of beds as well as the oxygen needed for severely ill COVID-19 patients.
India has the world’s highest daily average number of new COVID deaths – accounting for one in every three fatalities reported worldwide each day.
Nearly 23 million coronavirus infections have been recorded in the country, with almost 250,000 deaths.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) said the COVID variant first identified in India last year is being classified as a variant of global concern, with some preliminary studies showing that it spreads more easily.
Maria Van Kerkhove, from the WHO, told a briefing: “There is some available information to suggest increased transmissibility.”