Toxins in lychee fruit may kill children: Scientists


Since 1995, children in Muzaffarpur started suddenly falling ill with an unknown disease. Many of them would die - about 40 per cent - and no one could explain why. But there were few signposts for investigators.

After the investigation, the researchers recommended that children in the region limit the consumption of lychees, and that parents make sure their children eat an evening meal, in order to prevent cases of this illness.

According to a CNN report, in the year 2014, hundreds of children were admitted to hospital with symptoms of this illness, locally called as "chamki ki bimari" or "tinsel disease". "This is kind of emblematic of why we collaborate, to build this kind of systematic approach". Critically, the children who get sick often eat the fruit on an empty stomach, which contributes to the development of the illness, the researchers said.

However, hospitals and doctors attending to the children noted more telling similarities seen among the children. In ancient China, which is said to be the native place of litchi, people were aware of the fact and were cautious about it.

The first clue: There was no evidence the children had infections. This condition affects the brain causing seizures.

The researchers conducted laboratory investigations with children aged 15 years or younger. They also asked the adults to monitor how many lychees the children were eating. This leads to dangerously low blood sugar levels, or hypoglycemia.

"It seemed to be a little signal", she continued.

The results said that children who fell ill were twice as likely to have skipped dinner, which, according to the researchers probably resulted in "night-time hypoglycaemia". Then, the child would have seizures and convulsions before slipping in and out of consciousness. However, naturally occurring toxins that are found in litchis - hypoglycin A and methylenecyclopropylglycine (MPCG) - disrupt the fatty acid metabolism, leading to acutely low levels of blood sugar.

Be wary before eating unripe lychees!

This was an answer hiding in plain sight. Bihar, the largest producer of litchis in India.

More than six samples of litchi fruit of unripe, ripe plucked from tree, and ripe fallen on the ground categories were collected from orchards in the five blocks of Muzaffarpur between May 19 and June 13, 2014, and were tested under different temperature settings. But because everyone in the region eats them, it was hard for many to believe that, in isolated cases, it could set off a catastrophic illness. "If these children were well fed, the toxin would have not killed them". The absence of an evening meal significantly increased the effect of eating litchis on illness.

Everyone agreed. And it was done.

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