43 children in Bihar’s Muzaffarpur district have died in the last three weeks after being infected by a deadly brain disease believed to be linked to a toxic substance found in lychee fruit. The deaths were reported from two hospitals in Bihar state, famed for its lush lychee orchards.
Why it turns deadly?The toxic substance in lychee causes Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) locally known as Chamki Bukhar, which is a form of brain fever that happens due to the inflammation of the brain. The symptoms of AES include fever, vomiting and unconsciousness or onset of seizures. This condition affects only young children, mostly under 10 years of age.
Toxins in lychee
Experts believe that lychee toxins are particularly harmful when consumed on an empty stomach. Methylene cyclopropyl-glycine (MCPG) a chemical found in this fruit affects the brain when body sugar levels are low due to undernourishment.
Two hospitals in the city of Muzaffarpur had registered almost of 179 cases since January. The doctors said many of the deaths were due to Hypoglycemia, a condition caused by very low level of blood sugar.
What officials sayAccording to senior health official Ashok Kumar Singh, children all showed symptoms of Acute Encephalitis Syndrome and most had suffered a sudden loss of glucose in their blood. The health department has already issued an advisory for people to take care of their children during the hot summer when day temperature is above 40 degrees Celsius, Mr Singh said.
What research says
In 2015, US researchers reported that brain disease (AES) could be linked to a toxic substance called MCPA, found in the exotic fruit. According to various researchers, toxins were present only in lychee seeds or in the flesh of the fruit.
Outbreaks of AES have occurred every year in Muzaffarpur and neighbouring districts since 1995, and is at risk when the fruit is harvested commercially in May and June. — Times of India