Is there an association between zinc and COVID-19-associated mucormycosis? Results of an experimental and clinical study

Mycoses. 2021 Aug 22. doi: 10.1111/myc.13365. Online ahead of print.

ABSTRACT

BACKGROUND: The enormous increase in COVID-19-associated mucormycosis (CAM) in India lacks an explanation. Zinc supplementation during COVID-19 management is speculated as a contributor to mucormycosis. We conducted an experimental and clinical study to explore the association of zinc and mucormycosis.

METHODS: We inoculated pure isolates of Rhizopus arrhizus obtained from subjects with CAM on dichloran rose Bengal chloramphenicol (DRBC) agar enriched with (three different concentrations) and without zinc. At 24 hours, we counted the viable colonies and measured the dry weight of colonies at 24, 48, and 72 hours. We also compared the clinical features and serum zinc levels in 29 CAM cases and 28 COVID-19 subjects without mucormycosis (controls).

RESULTS: We tested eight isolates of R.arrhizus and noted a visible increase in growth in zinc-enriched media. A viable count percentage showed a significantly increased growth in four of the eight isolates in zinc-augmented DRBC agar. A time- and concentration-dependent increase in the mean fungal biomass with zinc was observed in all three isolates tested. We enrolled 29 cases of CAM and 28 controls. The mean serum zinc concentration was below the reference range in all the subjects and was not significantly different between the cases and controls.

CONCLUSIONS: Half of the R.arrhizus isolates grew better with zinc enrichment in vitro. However, our study does not conclusively support the hypothesis that zinc supplementation contributed to the pathogenesis of mucormycosis. More data, both in-vitro and in-vivo, may resolve the role of zinc in the pathogenesis of CAM.

PMID:34420245 | DOI:10.1111/myc.13365

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